Babel’s Children

January 7, 2004 | Source: Economist

A research project just beginning in Indonesia is examining correlations between the way concepts are expressed in languages and how native speakers of these languages think. This is a test of a hypothesis first made by Benjamin Lee Whorf, an early 20th-century American linguist, that the structure of language affects the way people think. Whorf’s hypothesis fell into disfavor half a century ago; it is now undergoing something of a revival.