SWH (was Re: Linguistics journals)

From: Edward Cherlin (cherlin@cauce.org)
Date: Wed Oct 22 1997 - 13:49:12 EDT

At 6:19 AM -0700 10/22/97, Robin Turner wrote:
[snip]IMHO Lojban cannot really test
>the SWH (I vaguely recall earlier strings on this subject), not least
>because Sapir and Whorf's work does not really produce a testable
>hypothesis anyway. Whorf himself rejected the idea of a "correlation"
>between language and culture, and as for the idea of language restricting
>thought, as Ellis (in "Language, Thought and Logic") points out, this
>relies on the rather dubious assumption that they are two distinct entities.

In Computer Science circles the SWH is taken for granted. It is obvious to
anyone who knows more than one kind of computer language that what is
easily expressed and comprehended in one is unfathomable in another. Edsger
Dijkstra, for example, considers BASIC permanently damaging to the mind.

Most of the commonly used languages are of one kind. Data structures are
not first-class objects, and must be addressed one element at a time. Most
of these require compile-time calculation of object sizes. This class
includes C, Pascal, Fortran, Cobol, Basic, and many others. We can
distinguish those that provide for dynamic data types using pointers (C).

Six other kinds are represented by assemblers, LISP, APL, FORTH, Smalltalk,
and SNOBOL. There are other kinds of languages besides these, but I'm
sticking to the ones I have studied. The key data structures in these types
are byte or word arrays, nested lists, nested arrays, whatever you can
build, classes, and patterns for text string matching, respectively.

>On the other hand, Lojban does provide some fairly enticing area for
>linguistic research (which I may pursue when I get my MA out of the way).
>Certainly the creation of a speech community from scratch would offer some
>intriguing possibilities for sociolinguists,

It would be interesting to compare this with the revival of spoken Hebrew
in Palestine, which reportedly derived from the determination of one family
to use Hebrew exclusively at home.

>Robin Turner
>Bilkent Universitesi,

Edward Cherlin, President      <http://www.cauce.org/>
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