Up the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis?

I’ve not normally found the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis very compelling. The idea that language determines thought is rather repellent to me, but more importantly (since gravity is also sometimes repellent to me, and nevertheless exists), does not seem to properly match many facts. It seems much more realistic to adopt a weak form of the hypothesis, that language is a powerful determining factor in worldview, rather than determining the worldview nearly in toto.

Here, anyway, via the always-wonderful Mind Hacks blog (on neurobiology, mostly, a topic that attracts high numbers of Buddhists and Buddhist studies types), is a study that seems to support the weak form of the hypothesis, and is freaking fascinating to boot:

I’ve just found this fascinating study on language and psychosis that found that multilingual psychotic patients can present with either different or less psychotic symptoms depending on the language they use.

It’s a 2001 study from The British Journal of Medical Psychology that collected existing case studies from the medical literature and reports on several new examples.

There have been previous accounts of bilingual or ‘polyglot’ patients who only hear voices in one of their languages, but this seems to be the first study to assess psychotic symptoms using a standardised measure.

Wow. Click here for the Mind Hacks summary; here for the full article.


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