The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language by John H. McWhorter

The Langauge Hoax is a short look that aims to refute the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. This is the idea that the structure of the language we speak affects how we experience the world. ie the Inuit have lots of words for snow therefore they experience snow different. This example isn't even true on its face, much less influencing how speakers experience their world. Another example, lots of languages do not have a word for pink. That doesn't mean that speakers of those languages don't experience pink, or see pink. Of course they do... They just talk about it differently.

Looking at this is idea from the 21st century, it is a silly idea. And yet it ended up as the plot device of the movie Arrival. That 'twist' kind of ruined the movie for me. This book will give you the words to describe why that movie was so unsatisfying.

McWhorter is a fantastic accessible author and always a pleasure to read. He approaches language seriously but with a great sense of human and appreciation for the myriad forms language takes. Recommended.

p.s. McWhorter hosts the Lexicon Valley podcast for Slate and you should add it to your feed.

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