An assessment of the Unicode standard

Terry Reedy tjreedy at
Sun Sep 20 01:45:35 CEST 2009

greg wrote:

> So in my humble opinion, the strong form of the Sapir-Whorf
> hypothesis is bunk. :-)

It also seems not to have been their hypothesis ;-). from

"Since neither Sapir nor Whorf had ever stated an actual hypothesis, 
Lenneberg formulated one based on a condensation of the different 
expressions of the notion of linguistic relativity in their works. He 
found it necessary to formulate the hypothesis as two basic formulations 
which he called the "weak" and the "strong" formulation respectively:

     1. Structural differences between language systems will, in 
general, be paralleled by nonlinguistic cognitive differences, of an 
unspecified sort, in the native speakers of the language.
     2. The structure of anyone's native language strongly influences or 
fully determines the worldview he will acquire as he learns the 

Since Lenneberg believed that the objective reality denotated by 
language was the same for speakers of all language he decided to test 
how different languages codified the same message differently and 
whether differences in codification could be proven to affect their 
..."Lenneberg's two formulations of the hypothesis became widely known 
and attributed to Whorf and Sapir while in fact the second formulation, 
verging on linguistic determinism, was never advanced by either of them."

In other words, the 'Strong' form is a strawman erected by someone 
somewhat opposed to their ideas.


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