Bloggingheads.tv hosts an interesting conversation between experimental philosopher Joshua Knobe and psychologist/linguist Lera Boroditsky (you should know who she is by now). It’s mostly going over the work of Boroditsky, although I thought Knobe did a good job of asking the right questions and taking a back seat when needed:
There have been some very interesting discussions of the relationship between language and thought recently, including for example, Sean’s absolutely fascinating series of posts about the evolution of colour terms, a great post on descriptions of motion in different languages over at the lousy linguist (here), Guy Deutscher’s article “Does Your Language Shape How You Think?” (for discussions, see e.h. here and here), a slightly less recent piece by Lera Boroditsky in the Wall Street Journal, and an excellent recent discussion of her article by Mark Liberman (here). (see also James’ post, including a great/terrible joke about Whorf).
One of the things that Deutscher wrote in his article was that:
“The area where the most striking evidence for the influence of language on thought has come to light is the language of space — how we describe the orientation of the world around us.”
As I’ve written a bit about this topic on my other blog, Shared Symbolic Storage, I’ll repost a short series of posts over the next couple of days.
As Deutscher said, this is a very fascinating avenue of linguistic research that gives much insight into the nature of language and cognition as well as their relationship. In addition, it also presents us with new facts and considerations we have to take into account when we think about how language and cognition evolved.
Here’s some stuff I’ve been reading over the last month or so:
- Babel’s Dawn discusses Michael Arbib’s paper, Invention and Community in the Emergence of Language: Insights from New Sign Languages.
- Over at Neurophilosophy there is an overview of a fascinating paper on the Universal Grammar of birdsong (also check out my comment, it’s the first one under JW).
- John Hawks talks about some of my favourite topics: learning, population size, and modern human behaviour.
- The recent resurgence of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and Lera Boroditsky are the topics of discussion over at Mind Hacks.
- Deric Bownds’ MindBlog mentions the “origins of altruism toward one’s own social group and the emergence of cultural complexity“.
- Evolution can occur in less than 10 years… In guppy fish.
- Researchers at Brown find: “A front portion of the brain that handles tasks like decision-making also helps decipher different phonetic sounds“.
- And lastly, Dienekes’ anthropology blog discusses a paper that investigates the role of drift and selection in the shaping of human skulls, concluding “that neutral processes have been much more important than climate in shaping the human cranium”.
Okay, so that brings you up to date with my reading from May through to July. Next round up will cover August. How fascinating :-/