LOT Summer School 2018

Language and thought: How are they related?

Gary Lupyan



Title of the course:

Language and Thought, how are they related?



Course description:

What is the relationship between language and thought? Is human cognition meaningfully affected by experience with one language versus another? What might human cognition be like in the absence of language entirely? We will begin by reviewing some of the classic formulations of the so-called “Whorfian” question and consider how to ask the question in a sensible way (“the logical problem”). We will then review some basic facts about how linguistic experiences differ from nonlinguistic experiences and the relevance of linguistic diversity (“the empirical problem”). Next, we will review of some of the experimental approaches researchers have used to investigate the relationships between language and “nonlinguistic” cognition. We will end by taking stock: What do we know? What do we not know? What kinds of data—both descriptive and experimental—would help turn our state of ignorance into knowledge?

Day-to-day program:

Monday: What is at stake? The logical problem. Let’s get the issues straight!

Tuesday: Language diversity in grammar and vocabulary. The empirical problem. Turning the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis into a scientific hypothesis. The empirical problem. What aspects of language should matter, why, and when?

Wednesday: The isolates of experience: categorization, nameability, and translation.

Thursday: Language experience in action: the case of color, number, and space.

Friday: Moving forward: how to proceed? The empirical and logical problems revisited.

Reading list: