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Relations in Relativity: New Perspectives on Language and Thought

Does the language we speak influence the way we think? This question of linguistic relativity, most famously raised by Benjamin Whorf, has been a strong point of debate over the decades. An emerging view that reconciles the empirical evidence is that thought is neither determined by language nor completely free of its influence. This workshop aims to take this idea further and ask the resulting questions: How does language influence thought? In which domains? When do language effects kick in? And why is it important?

The workshop centers around two discussions and a panel session and will be supplemented by student presentations.

The first conversation is a perspectives discussion on the mechanisms of linguistic relativity. Three invited guests will present their ideas for how language affects thought. Each speaker will first present a case study that best illustrates his or her position and propose mechanisms which account for the reported effects. The speakers will then discuss the proposed mechanisms and possible alternatives.

The second debate extends the linguistic relativity question to the domain of phonology. It has long been known that as a baby learns a specific language its ability to discriminate between sound contrasts not found in that particular language decreases. While this is not a classic case of linguistic relativity, it is a strong example of the effects that language can have on general cognitive processing. This debate not only brings this topic into the language and thought discussion, but also raises the question of when language effects kick in. Are low levels of auditory perception affected, or does language experience only influence perceptual categorization at a later stage?

We conclude the workshop with an open discussion between invited and local experts on the relevance of linguistic relativity. Why should we be studying it? How does it impact our everyday lives?

Where and when:
May 9-11, 2012
Radboud University Nijmegen, Aula, Comeniuslaan 2, Nijmegen & Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Wundtlaan 1, Nijmegen
Organizers:
IMPRS students
Contact:

Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands


Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213
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Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn