Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis Language Discrimination and Color Perception

It is compelling how there exists a connection between language use and thoughts and behaviors. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is the theory that thoughts and actions of a person are influenced by the languages that a person speaks. Winawer et al., (2007) further investigated how color perception is indicative of cultural differences and the effects of language on thought. Winawer and colleagues tested perceptual discrimination on objectively easy tasks by asking participants to complete these tasks with and without verbal intervention. This allows Winawer et al. to find if there is ?  presence of linguistic discrepancies in color discrimination. Winawer et al., tested 26 native Russian speakers and 24 native English speakers. He tested the Russian language because it discriminated between light and dark blue in comparison to English. Compared to English, in Russian, there is an obvious contrast between the color of blues; light blue is goluboy and dark blue is siniy. English and Russian speakers were tested in an objective task, they were shown twenty colors in total. In a row of two, from light blue to dark blue (goluboy to siniy), the participants were asked to show, with as much accuracy and quickness as possible, which of the two colors of the bottom match the top color.

The participants fulfilled two tests: one in which three squares were a similar shade and the other where one square was obviously a different shade. To further tests for language discrepancies, participants were placed in three conditions: the first was a normal task without verbal intervention and paired tasks, the second in which there is a verbal intervention where they repeated numbers as they did the color discrimination task, and finally, a control. It was found that English speakers were not actually better at differentiating dark and light blues versus differentiating blues of a like-shade. Russian speakers were quicker in differentiating light from dark blue versus differentiating between blues of a like-shade. When placed in the three conditions, Winawer found that Russian speakers were not better at differentiating dark and light blues and those of like-shade because when placed in the verbal intervention condition, they were tasked with repeating digits while doing the color task.

The concentration that the Russian participants need to differentiate the light and dark blues was being used for the number task and not for classification of colors. This research is very pertinent because it asserts that language does indeed affect our perception of the world, in this case, color perception. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is important because to linguistic research because it acknowledges an obvious relationship between thinking and cultural language. Which gives way to the idea that language actually echoes conceptualization from our thoughts and this is even more incredible because it is different for each and every unique cultural language. We can further gain an understanding of other languages and how other people conceptualize their thoughts based solely on their spoken language. This can also improve our understanding of translations.

Often times, there are words, phrases, and so on, that cannot be translated or really described from one language to the other. This is research furthers the field of language acquisition. This research can assist the earliest stages of language development and quite literally can change the way we, as individuals or as a society, see a new language. By seeing a new language differently, it is more likely that it will be embedded differently in that it will have a visual cultural context that will make it more easy for an individual to learn.

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