The notion of linguistic relativity denotes that the language we speak has an influence on the way we think. More specifically, it means that properties of our language impact also non-linguistic cognitive operations. The possibility of such an influence is certainly one of the most intriguing, yet at the same time most controversially debated hypotheses in the research on languages.               

While the idea of linguistic relativity had been around for much longer, the beginning of scientific research on the issue is associated with the works of Benjamin Lee Whorf in the middle of the 20th century. Since many of his analyses proved to be inadequate, however, and since universalist views on cognition were on the rise, research on linguistic relativity fell out of fashion and most linguists adopted the view that there is in fact little difference in the way we think regardless of differences in our native languages. Recently however the situation has changed quite dramatically, as a number of very interesting empirical findings challenge this consensus and it now seems that research on linguistic relativity may again be developing into a robust enterprise.       

It is the aim of this course to discuss the implications of these more recent empirical approaches to the issue, focusing on a selection of research domains, such as the impact of different time metaphors on perception, the conceptualization of motion events and possible influences of grammatical gender on the perception of objects.

 

Requirements for CPs and/or for exam registration are assignment(s) that need to be handed in over the course of the semester (details will be announced in the first session of the semester) plus your active participation in in-class activities. Your participation has to be documented by extra written work if you miss more than 2 sessions.