A Dozen Words for Misunderstood | Pacific Standard

The belief in question—that the languages we speak shape the thoughts we think—is known in linguistics as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and among the linguistic establishment, Whorfianism has fallen on very bad times indeed. The hypothesis’ namesakes, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, have been dead for 70 years, and in my own linguistics classes I rarely heard them invoked except to be ridiculed, like biologists of yore who thought maggots grew spontaneously from rotting meat, or historians who thought the world began 6,000 years ago. What Whorfianism claims, in its strongest form, is that our thoughts are limited and shaped by the specific words and grammar we use. Mayans don’t just speak Mayan; they think Mayan, and therefore they think differently from English speakers. According to Sapir-Whorf, a person’s view of the world is refracted through her language, like a pair of spectacles (not necessarily well-prescribed) superglued to his face.

Would like to study some linguistics; surprised I didn’t come across this stuff in the phil. of language I studied as an undergraduate.