Re: virus: 200 words for snow

David McFadzean (
Wed, 04 Jun 1997 11:28:59 -0600

I did a search for Sapir-Whorf and came up with this:

Linguistic determination is the argument that language directly
effects that way that people think about and see the world.
Linguistic determination is also known as the Whorfian hypothesis
or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (Sapir, 1968; Whorf, 1956). Whorf
provides the example of the Eskimo words for snow. The Eskimo
people are inhabitants of the Arctic. Whereas in the English
language there is only one word for snow the Eskimo language has
many words for snow. Whorf argues that this language for snow
allows the Eskimo people to "see" snow differently than speakers
of other languages who do not have as many words for snow. That
is, Eskimo people see subtle differences in snow that other people
do not.

Researchers have studied color perception across different
linguistic groups to find support for the Whorfian hypothesis
(Berlin & Kay, 1969; Heider, 1972; Heider & Oliver, 1973; Miller
& Johnson-Laird, 1976; Rosch, 1974). The evidence indicates that
people of all cultures perceive colour in the same way. The
tentative conclusion is that language does not determine the way
that people think. It is possible that language, while not
determining the way that people think may influence the way that
people think. Exactly how language might influence thought is yet

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus