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Re: [ontolog-forum] Frege-Whitehead hypothesis (was Sapir-Whorf)

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ali SH <asaegyn+out@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 2013 12:52:13 -0500
Message-id: <CADr70E0O_bzrKkKbbxhzjZsQkfbm2vT4rkU=+x=CO=pNdHdCWg@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
At the risk of beating a dead horse... a quick expansion on this point:

On Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 12:50 PM, John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I don't want to revive the debates about Sapir-Whorf.  So I'll just
use the noncommittal word 'influence', and let anyone elaborate that
word with any qualifiers they prefer.

I don't really understand the controversy (I have followed the SW debate in/outside of ontolog). Let me see if I can unpack some assumptions for the view that there is no controversy here:
  • A1: If someone practices doing X, they will be better at X than someone who does not.
    • In some cases, X might be describing the world using particular grammatical constructs, or using vocabulary V1 to describe colour vs vocabulary V2. In either case, whatever the X is that a person practices more, they will be more adept at using those constructs, leading to:
  • A2: By virtue of speaking some language, one is practicing that language (and its vocabulary, constructs and default ways of interpreting) and all that it entails, more than someone who does not
  • A3: If language L1 contains vocabulary or constructs that do not exist in another language, the someone who practices L1 will be more proficient at perceiving and utilizing those aspects of L1 compared to someone who has no exposure
  • A4: By analogy, replace language with Chess or Art. Two people looking at the same chess board (painting) will perceive and interpret the same scene differently. Someone versed in chess (art) will see multiple potential moves, advantages, strategies (brush strokes, styles), whereas someone not versed will see only a board with pieces (colours on canvas)
If we take A1-A3, and buttress via analogy (A4), doesn't it hold that someone versed in some language L1 which contains some vocabulary (or constructs) that are do not exist in L2, will be more proficient at utilizing those constructs than someone who is not versed in L1 - i.e. weak SW? At the very least, they will have more practice, which means they will "see" more in a chess board, painting or in some situation as described in their language vs another. Which assertion is controversial? Is there a hidden assertion that has not been made explicit?

There seems to be a consistent stream of literature that supports this weaker form, see [1], [2], [3], [4] and [5] among many, many others. [1] suggests that word order in English vs Korean languages affects the statistical regularities they perceive (attend to) in text (but not other modalities). [2] and [3] suggest that how numbers are named in a language affects the speed with which they are learned, and may translate into increased practice with those concepts, and hence ability. [4] suggests that an environment / culture which emphasizes particular metaphors over another will bias an individual to think (apply said metaphor) primarily in terms of that metaphor. [5] suggests that have specific word categories to describe a particular phenomena makes that phenomena more salient and observable to someone who does not use those categories.

Am I missing something? I don't see how one can deny the weak SW.

[1] *Language experience changes subsequent learning*
Luca Onnisa, Erik Thiessenb

*Abstract* What are the effects of experience on subsequent learning? We explored the effects of language-specific word order knowledge on the acquisition of sequential conditional information. Korean and English adults were engaged in a sequence learning task involving three different sets of stimuli: auditory linguistic (nonsense syllables), visual non-linguistic (nonsense shapes), and auditory non-linguistic (pure tones). The forward and backward probabilities between adjacent elements generated two equally probable and orthogonal perceptual parses of the elements, such that any significant preference at test must be due to either general cognitive biases, or prior language-induced biases. We found that language modulated parsing preferences with the linguistic stimuli only. Intriguingly, these preferences are congruent with the dominant word order patterns of each language, as corroborated by corpus analyses, and are driven by probabilistic preferences. Furthermore, although the Korean individuals had received extensive formal explicit training in English and lived in an English-speaking environment, they exhibited statistical learning biases congruent with their native language. Our findings suggest that mechanisms of statistical sequential learning are implicated in language across the lifespan, and experience with language may affect cognitive processes and later learning.
[4] *Anthropocentrism is not the first step in children's reasoning about the natural world*
Patricia Herrmann, Sandra R. Waxman, and Douglas L. Medin 

*Abstract* What is the relation between human and nonhuman animals? As adults, we construe this relation flexibly, depending in part on the situation at hand. From a biological perspective, we acknowledge the status of humans as one species among many (as in Western science), but at the same time may adopt other perspectives, including an anthropocentric perspective in which human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman animals (as in fables and popular media). How do these perspectives develop? The predominant view in developmental cognitive science is that young children universally possess only one markedly anthropocentric vantage point, and must undergo fundamental conceptual change, overturning their initially human-centered framework before they can acquire a distinctly biological framework. Evidence from two experiments challenges this view. By developing a task that allows us to test children as young as 3 years of age, we are able to demonstrate that anthropocentrism is not the first developmental step in children's reasoning about the biological world. Although urban 5-year-olds adopt an anthropocentric perspective, replicating previous reports, 3-year-olds show no hint of anthropocentrism. This suggests a previously unexplored model of development: Anthropocentrism is not an initial step in conceptual development, but is instead an acquired perspective, one that emerges between 3 and 5 years of age in children raised in urban environments.
[5] *Early Sensitivity to Language-Specific Spatial Categories in English and Korean*
Soonja Choia, Laraine McDonoughb, Melissa Bowermanc, Jean M Mandlerd

*Abstract* This study investigates young children's comprehension of spatial terms in two languages that categorize space strikingly differently. English makes a distinction between actions resulting in containment (put in) versus support or surface attachment (put on), while Korean makes a cross-cutting distinction between tight-fit relations (kkita) versus loose-fit or other contact relations (various verbs). In particular, the Korean verb kkita refers to actions resulting in a tight-fit relation regardless of containment or support. In a preferential looking study we assessed the comprehension of in by 20 English learners and kkita by 10 Korean learners, all between 18 and 23 months. The children viewed pairs of scenes while listening to sentences with and without the target word. The target word led children to gaze at different and language-appropriate aspects of the scenes. We conclude that children are sensitive to language-specific spatial categories by 18–23 months.

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