Speaking, Writing and Thinking: linguistic relativity and research

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We note that our writing systems suffer from the same problem of linguistic relativity as our spoken languages, i.e., that our first language influences how we think. This is known inaccurately as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis or Whorfianism, which seems to make paradoxical any original thinking or paradigm shifts. We compare this problem to Wittgenstein’s concept of aspect-blindness. Our review shows that Boas, Sapir, Whorf, and Wittgenstein all claimed that language guides our habits of thought, but equally, all rejected the strong version of linguistic relativity called linguistic determinism. Using examples from Wittgenstein’s notational praxis, we argue this apparent paradox of originality can be addressed by objectifying our metaphors using non-conventional notations and images, thereby revealing them, and allowing us to break out of our conceptual habits and aspect-blindness. The outcome is a sketch theory of notation that addresses the problem of linguistic relativity for research and original thinking.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching and Learning Projects in Arts and Humanities
EditorsSantiago Pérez-Aldeguer
Place of PublicationMadrid
PublisherAdaya Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-84-124511-8-4
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • research methodologies
  • linguistic relativity
  • determinism
  • Wittgenstein
  • Whorfianism


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