Japanese has a term that covers both green and blue. Russian has separate terms for dark and light blue. Does this mean that Russians perceive these colors differently from Japanese people? Does language control and limit the way we think?
This short, opinionated audiobook addresses the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which argues that the language we speak shapes the way we perceive the world. Linguist John McWhorter argues that while this idea is mesmerizing, it is plainly wrong. It is language that reflects culture and worldview, not the other way around. The fact that a language has only one word for eat, drink, and smoke doesn't mean its speakers don't process the difference between food and beverage, and those who use the same word for blue and green perceive those two colors just as vividly as others do. McWhorter shows not only how the idea of language as a lens fails but also why we want so badly to believe it: We're eager to celebrate diversity by acknowledging the intelligence of peoples who may not think like we do. Though well intentioned, our belief in this idea poses an obstacle to a better understanding of human nature and even trivializes the people we seek to celebrate. The reality--that all humans think alike--provides another, better way for us to acknowledge the intelligence of all peoples.
©2014 Oxford University Press (P)2015 Audible Inc.
I am a clay sculptor and an art instructor at a community college. I mostly listen to audiobooks while I work in my home studio.
Maybe this type of thing is just my cup of tea. I've listened to quite a few books about the development of language including the Great Courses one by John H. McWhorter. I have consistently found them fascinating and well done.
This is a short book, mostly McWhorter refuting the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis with some explanation of what that is and a bunch of explanation of why McWhorter doesn't agree with it (or, really, why he doesn't agree with the popular culture understanding of it).
Even though this book repeated some stuff I was already familiar with, it's well done and interesting. McWhorter is a joy to listen to. He's funny, easy to follow and talks bout interesting linguistics stuff.
However, if you're ready to dive in and enjoy, I'd start with the Great Courses' "The Story of Human Language" also by McWhorter--it's significantly longer and packed with information. I'm just going to sit her waiting for him to write more. Or maybe I'll re-listen to The Story of Human Language, too.
This is the second time I have read this book and it is very likely that I will read it more and more!! when it comes to stor, John is just one of the best people to make whatever he reads fun!!
this is a wonderful book with lots of citation to help drive home the point that it's trying to make. The author has gone through a lot of painstaking work to portray his subject matter with his much care and due diligence as possible while still refuting the overarching claim flowing from it. his care and appreciation that he shows is a nice break from the standard yelling matches that seem to plague us. also since it is written and read by the same man there is a level of craftsmanship and naturalness to the reading of this book that was quite refreshing. I would recommend this book to almost anyone.
Great manifesto, intellectually sharp and very entertaining. Recommended for any "language head" who has ever wondered about the influence language itself has on human thought or culture.
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