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About the course

Objective — We will examine various studies related to the principle of linguistic relativity—that is, the notion that a language's structure and vocabulary affect how its speakers perceive the world.  Ultimately, we will share in a class-wide discussion surrounding how linguistic relativity is relevant to modern society.


Out of 64 total high school students in attendance at the 7 April 2018 session, 35 wrote reviews for this course.

Over 71% of students indicated they were highly satisfied by the course (7 out of 7), and 91% of students indicated they were satisfied (at least 6 out of 7).

"It really made me think about language and how it works in a way I didn't know existed. All of the studies were relevant and very interesting, and I left the classroom thinking in a different manner than I had before ... truly a great experience! Made me excited to go to college and take courses similar to this one!"

"The sheer amount of knowledge the instructor possessed on the topic at hand and all of the examples really helped to key into the broad topics which are very complex."

"Ryan is a great, thorough instructor and made the material in the class easily accessible ... I had a great time and am coming away from it with a great deal of new information that is meaningful to me."

"You were really good at explaining all the concepts and engaging us. The class had a simple structure that flowed well, and the topic was so interesting! My favorite Splash class."

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More to explore

Empirical studies

Winawer, J., Witthoft, N., Frank, M. C., Wu, L., Wade, A. R., & Boroditsky, L. (2007). Russian blues reveal effects of language on color discrimination. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America104(19), 7780-7785. doi:10.1073/pnas.0701644104   [link]

Werker, J. F., & Tees, R. C. (2002). Cross-language speech perception: Evidence for perceptual reorganization during the first year of life. Infant Behavior and Development25(1), 121-133. doi:10.1016/S0163-6383(02)00093-0   [link]

Fausey, C. M., & Boroditsky, L. (2011). Who dunnit? Cross-linguistic differences in eye-witness memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review18(1), 150-157. doi:10.3758/s13423-010-0021-5   [link]

Broader literature

Wolff, P., & Holmes, K. J. (2011). Linguistic relativity. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science2(3), 253-265. doi:10.1002/wcs.104   [link]

Whorf, B. L. (1959). Language, thought, and reality; selected writings (J. B. Carroll, Ed.). New York, NY: Technology Press of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.   [link]

Sapir, E. (1921). Language: An introduction to the study of speech. New York, NY: Harcourt.   [link]

Video discussions

Rudder, J. (Producer). (2017, July 7). Does time work differently in different languages? Hopi time [Video file]   [link]


Thank you to Woo-Kyoung Ahn, professor of psychology at Yale University, for directing me to some of the psychological research I discuss in this course.