Quora User, linguistics PhD @ Berkeley, neuroscientist @ the VA. Linguistic Relativity is one of those linguistics topics that has managed to capture the public’s imagination for decades. George Orwell’s newspeak, the Eskimo Words for Snow myth – it all harkens back to this idea that the language you speak impacts what you (can) think. On Quora, you’ve got questions like Does language constrain thought? and Linguistic Relativity: Does an increased vocabulary change the way you think?
Some colleagues and I decided to step into the fray and look for evidence of linguistic relativity in children learning language. Most everyone before had mainly looked at differences between languages – how does speaking a language with only cardinal direction (N,S,E,W) impact your perception of space as compared to a language with relative direction (left, right), for example? In this study we look at English language alone (with Spanish data to come soon!), which enables us to not have to worry about things like differences in culture.
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