Mechanism-general and mechanism-specific explanations of Whorfian effects


  • Nicolás Alejandro Serrano CONICET, Universidad de Buenos Aires



Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, linguistic relativity, grounded approach, perception, perceptual experience, color


Recent empirical evidence has revitalized the interested in the so-called "Whorfean effects" in perception, their reach, and underlying mechanisms. In this paper I propose that explanations of these effects fall into two different types: authors like Lupyan (2012) postulate mechanisms that are specifically designed to produce whorfean effects, while authors like Casasanto (2008) explain those effects as subproducts of more general mechanisms, such as those responsible of associative learning. Then, I show how the grounded approach about concepts in cognitive science (e.g. Barsalou 1999, 2016) could be relevant for the study of whorfean effects in linguistics, phylosophy and cognitive psychology. In particular, I'll hold that the evidence in favor of the grounded approach also favours "general mechanisms" explanations such as Casasanto's over "specific mechanism" explanations such as Lupyan's.


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