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Re: loglang syntax (was: brz, or Plan B revisited (LONG))

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Tuesday, September 27, 2005, 20:17
Jörg Rhiemeier wrote at 2005-09-26 22:50:26 (+0200)
 > Hallo!
 > Jeffrey Jones wrote:
 > > On Mon, 26 Sep 2005 06:54:58 +0100, R A Brown
 > > <ray@...> wrote:
 > > >
 > > >R A Brown wrote:
 > >
 > > [...]
 > >
 > > >Maybe senility is setting in, but they look just a tad like
 > > >English relexes. How is this meant to test the Sapir-Worf
 > > >hypothesis?
 > This of course raises the question: how does one test it at all?
 > Have children grow up with Lojban as L1, and see how they think?
 > Hardly practical.  Anyway, I think the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is so
 > thoroughly misguided that we need no testing of it to know that we
 > can safely toss it.  Languages influence thought, true.

If you believe that languages influence thought, you believe in (a
weak form of) the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.  Since neither Whorf nor
Sapir ever set out a "hypothesis", that's as definitive a statement of
what the term means as any other.

One cannot really test "the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis", it's just too
vague an idea.  But it's perfectly reasonable to investigate
hypotheses that are to a greater or lesser extent Whorfian, to examine
whether specific linguistic features influence specific types of
cognition.  Some such experiments have been designed and carried out,
and produced interesting (if often inconclusive) results.  See for
example Li & Gleitman's criticism of various experiments concerned
with the effect of language on spatial thought, and Levinson et al.'s

That said, I can't really see how Loglan is particularly useful for
testing this sort of thing.  Presumably the idea is that one can
control more of the variables than with a natural language, but I have
difficulty seeing how this is supposed to work in practice.  The whole
idea of designing a language that _ought_ to produce certain Whorfian
effects seems to assume too much about the nature of the thing it is
supposed to test.