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Jenn-Yeu Chen

Institute of Education & Institute of Cognitive Science
National Cheng Kung University
Tainan, Taiwan

"Human Artifacts, Language-Dependent Processing, and the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis"

Artifacts are uniquely human. They are part and parcel of human civilization. Artifacts are presumably invented to reduce the physical and the mental loads of humans so that humans are better equipped to deal with the environment for survival. Paradoxically, artifacts turn around and place a considerable demand on humans because they have become part of the environment that humans strive to adapt to. The script of a language is no doubt an artifact. Its costs and benefits for human cognition can be more readily appreciated. What about the language itself? In this presentation, I propose to view language as an artifact, too, with the intention to offer a different perspective on the hotly-debated Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (SWH). The artifactual view, as I will call it, is significantly different from the cognitive view offered by Hunt and Agnoli (1990). The cognitive view broadens our conceptualization of thought and cognition, and has successfully brought the once-inactive issue back to life. The artifactual view, on the other hand, intends to broaden our conceptualization of language (the other piece of the puzzle). I will explain how this neo-Whorfian view enables us to pursue the SWH unreservedly, to incorporate a seemingly disparate issue in psycholinguistics (i.e., language-dependent processing), and to study the larger issue of the enormous impact of artifacts on human cognition, an issue that has been ignored within much of contemporary cognitive science.

Friday, September 8, 2006 12-1pm, TSRB 132

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  • Fall 2006 Schedule last edited on 29 November 2006 at 11:22 am by