NY Times Magazine interview with Frank Luntz


# # #

To navigate more by instruments, Sapir-Whorf provides the theoretical mechanism:
. . .
The argument that language defines the way a person behaves and thinks has existed since the early 1900’s when Edward Sapir first identified the concept. He believed that language and the thoughts that we have are somehow interwoven, and that all people are equally being affected by the confines of their language. In short, he made all people out to be mental prisoners; unable to think freely because of the restrictions of their vocabularies.

An example of this idea is given in George Orwell’s book 1984, in which he discusses the use of a language entitled “newspeak” which was created to change the way people thought about the government. The new vocabulary they were given was created to control their minds. Since they could not think of things not included in the vocabulary, they were to be zombies imprisoned by the trance of their language. Soon, Sapir had a student, Benjamin Whorf, who picked up on the idea of linguistic determinism and really made it his own. Whorf coined what was once called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which is more properly referred to as the Whorf hypothesis. This states that language is not simply a way of voicing ideas, but is the very thing which shapes those ideas. One cannot think outside the confines of their language. The result of this process is many different world views by speakers of different languages.

. . .

Published by

Anthony Olszewski

Anthony Olszewski has written on a wide variety of topics: cage birds, tropical fish, popular culture, the poetry of Amiri Baraka and a chapter on genetics for a veterinary text book, as a small sample. He worked as an editor at a magazine produced by TFH, the world's largest publisher of pet books. Anthony Olszewski is the author of a booklet on Hudson County history, Hudson County Facts, and a book of short stories, Second Thief, Best Thief, that are sold on Amazon. Anthony Olszewski established PETCRAFT.com in 1996. A pioneer on the Web, the Site continues to provide unique information on a range of companion animals, focusing on birds and fish. As a community service, he operates Jersey City Free Books. Anthony Olszewski was born in Jersey City, NJ (Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital, 1956) and is a member of Mensa. Email at anthony.olszewski@gmail.com

One thought on “NY Times Magazine interview with Frank Luntz”

  1. If I remember correctly, what precipitated the concept in Sapir’s mind was an experience in an early job as an insurance inspector. At the site of an explosion, Sapir questioned witnesses. One worker described how the explosion came out of nowhere just after he discarded a still-burning cigarette into an “empty” barrel. Of course the barrel was filled with fumes. The word “empty” dictated the worker’s behavior.

    Here’s something that popped into my head on the power of language:
    Words as Magic
    Friday, February 6, 2009 at 5:57am
    The action and reaction of most animals is relatively simple and amenable to hard-wiring, for example, the armadillo:
    If smell food, then dig until uncover food, then eat.

    If attacked, then hunker down.

    Swinging from branches requires real-time processing. I wonder if what monkeys navigate is not reality, but a theoretical construct, a constantly changing mental jungle? Learning (self-programming), lets an individual develop better representations of reality quite literally on-the-fly as conditions change.

    Descending from the trees, all sorts of excess processing power would be available for things like tool-making and language. The combination of language and learning might make possible script injection. Experiencing not the world, but an inner vision, the not-real is both art and hypnosis, words as magic.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *