The Language Hoax

The Language Hoax : Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language

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Description

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 book 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.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 208 pages
  • 134 x 187 x 22mm | 256g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0199361584
  • 9780199361588
  • 268,498

Table of contents

Introduction ; Chapter One: Studies Have Shown ; Chapter Two: Having it Both Ways? ; Chapter Three: An Interregnum: On Culture ; Chapter Four: Dissing the Chinese ; Chapter Five: What's the World View from English? ; Chapter Six: Respect for Humanity
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Review Text

In The Language Hoax - a "manifesto" - John.H Mcwhorter wishes to counter contemporary "neo-Whorfian" claims that significant cognitive differences are determined by people's mother tongues ... McWhorter covers some basic importatnt topics. Michael Silverstein, The Times Literary Supplement
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Review quote

this manifesto is thought-provoking and well-argued reading not only for the general public but also for linguists. * Angela Bartens, Sociolinguistic Studies * a well-written and stimulating book that asks uncomfortable questions and turns common arguments on their head. The author uses examples from an impressive number of languages across the globe to provide counter-examples to claims that may easily be made (and occasionally have been made) about the influence of language on thought ... McWhorter manages the difficult task of properly positioning himself within the vast territory between the two extremes of linguistic
determinism and biolinguistics. * Peter Backhaus, Linguist List * McWhorter writes with liveliness and enthusiasm, noting: All languages are, in their own ways, as utterly awesome as creatures, snowflakes, Haydn string quartets, or what The Magnificent Ambersons would have been like if Orson Welles had been allowed to do the final edit. This book makes very accessible to the lay reader some of the more esoteric theories of linguistic studies. * Publishers Weekly * [McWhorter] tackles linguistic determinism- the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis-head on, arguing that world views are human, not strapped to one culture. * Nature * John McWhorter wishes to drive a stake through the heart of that claim, known as the Safir-Whorf hypothesis, or the language-as-lens theory. * Tom Bartlett, The Chronicle of Higher Education * The Language Hoax is a welcome antidote to unqualified Whorfian claims and pronouncements. * Kerstin Hoge, Times Higher Education * He [McWhorter] is an engaging, persuasive writer, and although his book is unlikely to be the final word on the subject, it is a provocative and valuable addition to the debate. * Ian Critchley, The Sunday Times Ireland * In this succinct, accessible and engaging book, John McWhorter looks at the evidence and concludes that this popular idea is wrong. His argument is convincing and, despite its brevity, the book covers immense ground. Anyone fascinated by language would enjoy and learn from it. * Oliver Kamm, The Times * Engrossing reading. * Kerstin Hoge, Times Higher Education * In The Language Hoax - a "manifesto" - John.H Mcwhorter wishes to counter contemporary "neo-Whorfian" claims that significant cognitive differences are determined by people's mother tongues ... McWhorter covers some basic importatnt topics. * Michael Silverstein, The Times Literary Supplement *
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About John H. McWhorter

John McWhorter is Professor of Linguistics at Columbia University and author of many books, including The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English, and What Language Is, What It Isn't, and What It Could Be. He also writes on language, as well as race and cultural issues, as Contributing Editor at The New Republic and Columnist at Time. His
work has appeared in The New York Times, Time, and The New Yorker, and he has appeared often on National Public Radio, CSPAN and MSNBC.
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Rating details

653 ratings
3.68 out of 5 stars
5 20% (132)
4 40% (261)
3 30% (194)
2 9% (56)
1 2% (10)
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