I am no expert on Sapir-Whorf lore. But I understand it usually concerns itself with semantics and the lexicon.

Would it be possible, do you think, to look at languages with similar and different clusters of parameter settings across the world and devise experimental studies to see if syntactic parameters affect the way we organise the world in our minds?

This might provide opportunities for interesting debate between proponents of Chomskyan and other types of modern linguistics. Of course, someone may already have suggested such an idea, in which case, feel free to admonish my ignorance.

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    I've always wondered this myself. It would seem like the order that you think of things would have some effect on what you perceive to be important, etc. Aug 7, 2012 at 17:19
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    Hey, maybe Americans would be less self-centered if English was OSV rather than SVO. In the phrase "I love you" I am the focus of the sentence, but in "You I love" the person I'm talking to is the focus! Aug 7, 2012 at 17:25
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    @NickAnderegg: We would merely find other ways of being self-centered. We're really the best at that sort of thing.
    – Robusto
    Aug 7, 2012 at 18:14
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    @Robusto That's true. I have an American sense of entitlement that no neo-Whorfian syntax change could take away from me. Aug 7, 2012 at 18:22
  • America I love. Aug 8, 2012 at 1:14

1 Answer 1


There's no reason this couldn't work. Chomskyans tend to be sceptical of the work of neo-Whorfians and vice versa, but that is a sociological/philosophical divide more than anything else, and there is no logical incompatibility.

For instance, the difference between verb-framed and satellite-framed languages has been claimed to have its origins in a syntactic parameter. It has also been claimed to affect conceptualization of motion events. If both claims are correct, then we have a syntactic parameter setting which plays a role in structuring non-linguistic cognition.

(I realize this question is rather old, but it's a great question, and I felt it deserved a response!)

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