Talk:Benjamin Lee Whorf

Active discussions
Benjamin Lee Whorf has been listed as one of the Language and literature good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
Article milestones
July 2, 2012Good article nomineeNot listed
December 2, 2012Good article nomineeListed
A fact from this article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page in the "Did you know?" column on June 17, 2012.
The text of the entry was: Did you know ... that linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf is best known for the "Sapir-Whorf hypothesis", but that he never stated a hypothesis, writing instead about the "principle of linguistic relativity"?
Current status: Good article


Recently the following sentences were removed from the article:

Of him, George Lakoff, a well known American linguist, has said:
Whorf was not only an outstanding linguist... he was an outstanding human being

Motivation for the deletion was that 'opinions on outstanding human beings are a dime a dozen'. I don't agree. But let me first quote Lakoff correctly. The quote comes from Lakoff's (1987) influential book Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things. It is the concluding remark of a section on Whorf's views in Chapter 18 (titled 'Whorf and Relativism') of the book. I quote:

Whorf was not only a pioneer in linguistics. He was a pioneer as a human being. That should not be forgotten.

In my opinion, a quote like this from a linguist like this is highly relevant to the article. Whorf was (and still is) controversial in linguistics; Lakoff admits so, but at the same time highly appreciates some of his thoughts, and furthermore adds that Whorf was a pioneer as a human being. I've re-added it, corrected it, and added the reference. mark 00:48, 22 Jan 2005 (UTC)

  • So lemme see: Linguists like Lakoff (prominent, i guess?) are experts on being a "pioneer as a human being", which i can't deny, knowing little about linguistics and nothing about lingists like Lakoff. But still, how is this relevant ... hmmm, i can't very well make an argument against that, since i have not the slightest idea what it means to be "a pioneer as a human being".
I'll tell you what, i'll start over: What value could this conceivably add to the article?
--Jerzy(t) 05:00, 2005 Jan 22 (UTC)
Please don't feel too annoyed, I'll try to clarify myself. Granted, Lakoff is no expert on being a pioneer as a human being. What makes the quote relevant is that it is the opinion of a prominent linguist about someone that is still controversial in linguistics. In that light, the first part of the quote ('pioneer in linguistics') is no doubt more important and more substantial than the second part; but I think it makes sense to include the full quote (the "that should not be forgotten" part is of minor importance though). Furthermore, I think the change to 'pioneer' makes the quote more acceptable and more relevant than the previous ill-cited version. It is more easy to see why someone could be a pioneer as a human being than why someone would be just 'an outstanding human being'. In fact, Lakoff argues why Whorf was a pioneer as to his weltanschauung. I'll quote the context of his statement (Lakoff 1987:330):
One all-important thing should be remembered about Whorf. He did most of his work at a time when Nazism was on the rise in Europe and jingoism was prevalent in America. At that time, white people were assumed, even in much of the U.S., to be more intelligent than people with skins of other colors. Western civilaztion was assumed to be the pinnacle of intellectual achievement; other civilizations were considered inferior. 'Culture' meant European and American culture, not Hopi culture or Balinese culture. 'Literature' meant European and American literature. 'Logic' meant Western logic, not logic as it developed in China and India. 'Scientific thought' was the last word in rationality, and it of course belonged to us. It was even thought that Western languages were 'advanced' and that nowestern languages were 'primitive'. The very idea that 'uneducated' Indians, who were still considered savages by many, could reason as well as educated Americans and Europeans was extraordinary and radical. The notion that their conceptual system better fit scientific reality—that we could learn from them—bordered on the unthinkable
Whorf was not only a pioneer in linguistics. He was a pioneer as a human being. That should not be forgotten.
On reading the article again, I would say that the article could be more outspoken on Whorf's pioneering position in his time and background. The quote of course is a good start. Let me know what you think! mark 10:22 & 11:09, 22 Jan 2005 (UTC) [Timestamp corrected by Jerzy(t) 18:37, 2005 Jan 22 (UTC)]
  • I think the above explanation is a great help toward a worthwhile replacement for either of the things i removed. (But i still find it hard to see a role for the quote itself, even as an intro to this more relevant material. The quote is too cryptic, and too saturated with the pretentious overstatement of funeral eulogies, to convey this role -- a role that may actually deserve such praise.) Perhaps this history-of-ideas material duplicates, or should be the start of, a separate article about how racism stopped being a self-evidently virtue in white America, or in the West. (Any average liberal (in my esitmation of that category) who saw "Unforgivable Blackness", the new Ken Burns/Geoffrey Ward documentary on Jack Johnson and the great white hopes (see also The Great White Hope) in the past week is likely to share my awe at how hidden that transition has been. I don't know if WP covers it at all well.)
We certainly should have a link from Benjamin Whorf to such an article, next to something about "important figure in [whatever, or "the development of" whatever]". We're not talking about cultural relativism, i think (tho certainly there is a relationship): IMO CR is much more theoretical and intellectual, while this involves a lot of gut-level assumptions. Nor is this a matter of anti-racism, which is also much more self-conscious.
BTW, IMO, this makes it mandatory for the article to have two major sections, one on his linguistics work and one on the attitude shift, and i suggest that that, rather than a quote at the tail of a single section, is the useful starting point we need.
--Jerzy(t) 21:00, 2005 Jan 22 (UTC)
:) I guess we won't come to an agreement about the quote (but I am glad that it's not 'utter bosh' to you anymore). Regarding the other points, I fully agree with you. Whorf isn't high on my to do list at present, but your sketch would be a good start. mark 22:31, 23 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I examined the page history, hoping that the bibliography grew from some reasonable length to its present exhaustive size (unusable for encyclopedic purposes), and that i could keep the current versions of the original entries while moving the new ones here. But it sprang forth full-grown like Venus. If no one is prepared to move the excess to here in the next week, it should be moved here en masse, to serve as source material, while we wait as long as it takes for someone to come up with something like a half-dozen crucial items.
--Jerzy(t) 21:44, 2005 Jan 22 (UTC)

Wholeheartedly agree. An annotated bibliography would be great; at the very least, his most important works should be singled out. mark 22:31, 23 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I feel that the page should include some criticism of Whorf's work, which is plentiful. At the very least, Whorf's explanation for the "empty" gasoline drum incident is laughable, it's far more likely the worker was fooled by his eyes than by any semantics of the word "empty." Whorf's claims about the Apache mind are even my ludicrous, as Steven Pinker points out in his book The Language Instinct (pg. 50), "First, Whorf did not actually study any Apaches; it is not clear that he ever met one. His assertions about Apache psychology are based entirely on Apache grammar-making his argument circular. Apaches speak differently, so they must think differently. How do we know that they think differently? Just listen to the way they speak!" —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:23, 7 February 2008 (UTC)


Despite the discussion above, it seems like the bibliography was never actually moved here. So here it is then, after all. Junes 12:47, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

Brazeau, Peter. Parts of a World: Wallace Stevens Remembered, An Oral Biography. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1985.

Carroll, John B. "Benjamin Lee Whorf." Dictionary of American Biography: 819-20.

___. "Introduction." Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Ed. John B. Carroll. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1956.

Devitt, Michael and Kim Sterelny. Language and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987.

Fishman, Joshua A. "A Systematization of the Whorfian Hypothesis." Behavioral Sciences 5 (1960): 323-379.

___. "Whorfianism of the Third Kind: Ethnolinguistic Diversity as a Worldwide Social Asset." Language in Society 11 (1982): 1-14.

Gardner, Howard. Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. New York: Basic Books, 1993.

Gruber, Howard E. "Aspects of Scientific Discovery: Aesthetics and Cognition." Vision of Aesthetics, the Environment, and Development: The Legacy of Joachim F. Wohlwill. Ed. Roger M. Downs, Lynn S. Liben, and David S. Palermo. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University, 19xx.

___. "Breakaway Minds" (interview with Howard Gardner). Psychology Today, July 1981: 68-73.

___. "Cognitive Psychology, Scientific Creativity, and the Case Study Method." In On Scientific Creativity. Ed. M.D. Graek, R.S. Cohen, and G. Cimino. Amsterdam: D. Reidel, 1980: 295-322.

___. "The Cooperative Synthesis of Disparate Points of View." The Legacy of Solomon Asch: Essays in Cognition and Social Psychology. Ed. Irvin Rock. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1990: 143-58.

___. "Coping With Multiplicity and Ambiguity of Meaning in Works of Art." Metaphor and Symbolic Activity 3(1988): 183-89.

___. "Creativite et fonction constructive de la repetition." Bulletin de psychologie de la Sorbonne: Numero special pour le 80e anniversaire de Jean Piaget. 1976.

___, with P.H. Barrett. Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

___. "Darwin's 'Tree of Nature' and Other Images of Wide Scope." In On Aesthetics in Nature. Ed. Judith Wechsler. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1978: 121-40.

___. "The Emergence of a Sense of Purpose." In Beyond Formal Operations. Ed. M. Commons. New York: Praeger, 19xx.

___. "Ensembles of Metaphor in Creative Scientific Thinking." Cahiers de la Fondation Archives Jean Piaget (1987): 235-54.

___, and J. J. Voneche, eds. The Essential Piaget. New York: Basic Books, 1977.

___. "The Evolving Systems Approach to Creative Work." In Wallace and Gruber, Creative People at Work: Twelve Case Studies: 3-24.

___. "The Evolving Systems Approach to Creativity." In Towards a Theory of Psychological Development. Ed. Sohan and Celia Modgil. Windsor, England: NFER, 1980: 269-3xx.

___ and V. Gruber. "The Eye of Reason: Darwin's Development During the Beagle Voyage." Isis 53(1962): 186-200.

___. "Foreward." Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking by Nora John-Steiner. New York: Harper and Row, 1985: ix-xii.

___. "The Fortunes of a Basic Darwinian Idea: Chance." In The Roots of American Psychology: Historical Influences and Implications for the Future. Ed. R.W. Rieber and K. Salzinger. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 291(1977).

___. "From Epistemic Subject to Unique Creative Person at Work." Archives de Psychologie 54(1985): 167-85.

___. "Giftedness and Moral Responsibility: Creative Thinking and Human Survival." In F.D. Horowitz and M. O'Brien, eds. The Gifted and the Talented: Developmental Perspectives. Washington: American Psychological Association, 1985.

___. "History and Creative Work: From the Most Ordinary to the Most Exalted." Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 19(1983): 4-15.

___ and S.N. Davis. "Inching Our Way Up Mount Olympus: The Evolving Systems Approach to Creative Thinking." In The Nature of Creativity. Ed. R.J. Sternberg. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988: 243-69.

___. "On the Hypothesized Relation Between Giftedness and Creativity." New Directions for Child Development 17(1982): 7-30.

___. "On the Relation Between 'Aha' Experiences' and the Con-struction of Ideas." History of Science 19(1981): 41-59.

___. "Piaget's Mission." Social Research 49(1982): 239-64. (PM)

___ and J.J. Voneche. "Reflexions sur les operations formelles de la pensee." Archieves de Psychologie 44(1976): 45-55.

___ and I.A. Sehl. "Transcending Relativism: Going Beyond the Information I am Given." In W. Callebaut, S.E. Cozzens, B.P. Lecuyer, A. Rip, and J.P. Van Bendegem, eds. George Sarton Centennial. Ghent, Belgium: Communication and Cognition, 1984.

___. "Which Way is Up? A Developmental Question." In Adult Cognitive Development. Ed. R.A. Mines and K.S. Kitchener. New York: Praeger: 112-33.

Gumperz, John J. and Stephen C. Levinson. "Rethinking Linguistic Relativity." Current Anthropology 32(1991): 613-24.

Harris, Randy Allen. The Linguistics Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Hollander, John. "Asylum Avenue." The Wallace Stevens Journal 1.2 (1977): 68.

John-Steiner, Nora. Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking. New York: Harper and Row, 1985.

Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Lavery, David. "Creative Work: On the Method of Howard Gruber." Journal of Humanistic Psychology 33.2 (1993): 101-21.

Lee,-Benjamin. "Peirce, Frege, Saussure, and Whorf: The Semiotic Mediation of Ontology." Semiotic Mediation: Sociocultural and Psychological Perspectives. ." Ed. Elizabeth Mertz and Richard J. Parmentier. Orlando, FL: Academic, 1985. 99-128.

___. "Semiotic Origins of Mind-Body Dualism." Semiotics, Self, and Society. Ed. Benjamin Lee and Greg Urban. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1989. 193-228.

Levinson, S. Language and mind: Let’s get the issues straight! In D. Gentner & S. Goldin-Meadow (eds.), Language in mind: Advances in the study of language and cognition (2003, pp. 25-46). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Levinson, S. Space in language and cognition: Explorations in cognitive diversity. Cambridge: CUP, 2003.

Lucy,-John-A. "Whorf's View of the Linguistic Mediation of Thought." Semiotic Mediation: Sociocultural and Psychological Perspectives. ." Ed. Elizabeth Mertz and Richard J. Parmentier. Orlando, FL: Academic, 1985. 73-97

Lucy,-John-A.; Wertsch,-James-V. "Vygotsky and Whorf: A Comparative Analysis." Social and Functional Approaches to Language and Thought. Ed. Maya Hickmann. New York: Academic, 1987. 67-86

Martin, Laura. "'Eskimo Words for Snow.' A Case Study in the Genesis and Decay of an Anthropological Example." American Anthropologist 88 (1986): 418-23.

d'Olivet. Fabre. The Hebrew Language Restored. Trans. Nayan Louise Redfield. 1921.

Pickering, George. Creative Malady. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Pinker, Steven. The Language Instinct. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

Pullum, Geoffrey. The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax and Other Irreverent Essays on the Study of Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Ross, Philip E. Ross. "New Whoof in Whorf: An Old Language Theory Regains Its Authority." Scientific American, February 1992: 24-25.

Sampson, Geoffrey. Schools of Linguistics. Stanford, CA: Stanford U P, 1980.

Sapir. Edward. Selected Writings of Edward Sapir. Ed. David G. Mandelbaum. Berkeley; University of California Press, 1951.

Schaff, Adam. Language and Cognition. Ed. Robert S. Cohen. Trans. Olgierd Wojtasiewicz. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.

Steiner, George. "Whorf, Chomsky, and the Student of Literature." On Difficulty and Other Essays. New York: Oxford, 1978: 136-63.

Trager, George L. "Benjamin L. Whorf." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, XVI: 536-38.

___. "The Systematization of the Whorf Hypothesis." Anthropological Linguistics 1(1959): 31-35.

Wallace, Doris B. "Studying the Individual: The Case Study Method and Other Genres." In Wallace and Gruber, eds. Creative People at Work: 25-43.

___. and Howard E. Gruber, ed. Creative People at Work: Twelve Cognitive Case Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Watkins, Mary. Waking Dreams. New York: Harper and Row, 1976.

Whorf, Benjamin. "An American Indian Model of the Universe." International Journal of American Linguistics 16(1950): 67-72; rpt. ETC, A Review of General Semantics 8 (1950): 27-33.(1936). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 57-64.

___. "Blazing Icicles." Hartford Agent, 1940.

___. "A Brotherhood of Thought." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.4 (1941): 13-14.

___. "A Central Mexican Inscription Combining Mexican and Maya Day Signs." American Anthropologist 34(1932): 296-302; in Language, Thought, and Reality: 43-50.

___. Collected Papers on Metalinguistics. Washington, DC: Department of State, Foreign Service Institute, 1952.

___. "The Comparative Linguistics of Uto-Aztecan." American Anthropologist 37(1935): 600-608.

___. "Concerning Science and Religion." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "Decipherment of the Linguistic Portion of the Maya Hiero glyphs" (1940). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 173-198.

___. "Discussion of Hopi Linguistics" (1937). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 102-111.

___. "Dr. Reiser's Humanism." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.5 (1941): 12- 14.

___. "The Expansion Theory." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "The Flux-Outlet Theory." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "Gestalt Technique of Stem Composition in Shawnee" (1939). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 160-72.

___. "Grammatical Categories." Language 21(1945): 1-11; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 87-101.

___. "H.G. Wells." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.3 (1941): 6.

___. "The Hopi Language, Toreva Dialect." Linguistic Structures of Native America. Ed. Harry Hoijer. New York: Viking Fund, 1946: 159-83.

___. "The Hurrians of Old Chaldea." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.3 (1941): 15.

___. "In Defense of Puritanism." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "Interpretation of Isotopes." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.3 (1941): 12-13.

___. "Language, Mind, and Reality." The Theosophist 63(1942): 281-91; rpt. ETC, A Review of General Semantics 9(1952): 167-88; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 246-270.

___. "Language: Plan and Conception of an Arrangement" (1938). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 125-134.

___. Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Edited by John B. Carroll. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1956.

___. "Languages and Logic." Technology Review 43(1941): 250-52, 266, 268, 272; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 233-45.

___. "Light-Velocity and Expansion." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "A Linguistic Consideration of Thinking in Primitive Communities" (1936). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 65-86.

___. "Linguistic Factors in the Terminology of Hopi Architecture." International Journal of American Linguistics 19(1953): 141-45; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 199-206.

___. "Linguistics as an Exact Science." Technology Review 43(1940): 61-63, 80-83; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 220-232.

___. "Loan Words in Ancient Mexico." Philological and Documentary Studies 1(1943): 1-17; rpt. Studies in Linguistics 5(1947): 49-64.

___. "The Maya Manuscript in Dresden." Art and Archaeology 34(1933): 270.

___. "Maya Writing and Its Decipherment." Maya Research 2(1935): 367-82.

___. "Notes on the Tubatulabal Language." American Anthropologist 38(1936): 341-44.

___. "On Being." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "On the Connection of Ideas" (1927). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 35-39.

___. "On Psychology" (n.d.). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 40-42.

___. "The Origin of Aztec TL." American Anthropologist 39(1937): 265-74.

___. "Phonemic Analysis of the English of Eastern Massachusetts." Studies in Linguistics 2(1943): 21-40.

___. The Phonetic Value of Certain Characters in Maya Writing. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vo. XIII, No. 8 Cambridge: Peabody Museum and Harvard University, 1933.

___. "Pines." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "The Punctual and Segmentative Aspects of Verbs in Hopi." Langugage 12(1936): 127-31; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 51-56.

___. "Purpose vs. Evolution." New Republic, 19 Dec. 1925.

___. "The Reign of Huemac." American Anthropologist 31(1929): 667-84.

___. "The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language." Language, Culture, and Personality. Ed. Leslie Spier. Menasha, WI: Sapir Memorial Publication Fund, 1941: 75-93; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 134-159.

___, with George L. Trager. "The Relationship of Uto-Aztecan and Tanoan." American Anthropologist 39(1937): 609-24.

___. Review of Living Light by E.N. Harvey. Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.1 (1940): 3-5.

___. Review of The Way of Things by W.P. Montague." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.4 (1941): 10-11.

___. "Science and Linguistics." Technology Review 42(1940): 229-31, 247-48; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 207-219.

___. "Some Verbal Categories of Hopi." Language 14(1938): 275-86; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 112-24.

___. "Toward a Higher Mental World." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.7 (1941): 14-15.

___. "Unanswered Questions from Ancient Times." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial `Library.

___. "Universal Trinity in Unity." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "We May End the War That is Within All Wars That are Waged to End All Wars." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.1 (1940): 9-10.

___. "Why I Have Discarded Evolution." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

Whorf and his exposure to the HopiEdit

Did Whorf live among the Hopi people, and if so, for how long?

As far as I remember, he spent a few weeks among the Hopi - no more than that. Most of his informants were Hopi he knew in New York. My very personal opinion is that this fact invalidates a lot of his work on the Hopi language. His idea that language restricts what we can think could never apply to his informants, as they all spoke English as well as Hopi, and therefore were free of the restrictions.
There is a fairly convincing rebuttal of Whorf in Donald E. Brown's Human Universals, ISBN 007008209X for anyone who happens to have it and wants to dig up material to add to the article. Mlewan 21:56, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

The version of the Whorf article that is up on September 7, 2010 cites Guy Deutscher's book Through the Language Glass to say that Whorf never visited the Hopi reservation (notes 9 and 10). While it is true that Whorf did most of his work on Hopi with an informant in New York, he made at least one trip to the Hopi in 1938. You will find this in John B. Carroll's introduction to his edited volume of Whorf's papers, Language, Thought, and Reality, 1956, p. 17; and see Penny Lee, The Whorf Theory Complex, 1996, p. 13. Whorf had also done field research in Mexico on other languages of the Uto-Aztecan family. Hippojo (talk) 02:01, 8 September 2010 (UTC)


The remark credited to Whorf about Hopi seems to be ungrammatical.

Contradiction in wiki redirects for relativity and Sapir-whorfEdit

This article states that his theory of linguistic relativity, which he developed with Edward Sapir. Nowadays, this theory is often misrepresented as being synonymous with the "Sapir–Whorf hypothesis", which was in fact a posthumous appellation, referring to a number of Whorf's ideas on top of linguistic relativity,, but Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis redirects to linguistic relativism, in an article which states they are the same thing.

Which one is correct? (I don't know enough myself, but as a user I can see that clearly one of the articles is wrong.) VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 01:43, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

This one is the less than accurate article - I will take care of this shortly.·Maunus·ƛ· 05:15, 12 June 2009 (UTC)
Thank you! VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 05:34, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

Whorf QuoteEdit

I reverted [this edit] because it does appear to be by Whorf, in Language, Thought and Reality. I can't find a page number, but [here] we can see a number of books citing it as by him, about half before internet memes could spread, and a few rather respectable ones. The revert was done because I think the quote is properly attributed to Whorf, but a page number would be nice for anyone who has a copy of the book... VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 16:24, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

Actually I don't think any of these quoted books are reliable sources - to me it doesn't look like a Whorf quote at at but rather a (misunderstood) rephrasing of his ideas to fit better as an aforism than what he actually wrote. I also cannot find it in language, thought and reality. For example searching here gives no hits. Also widely occuring misquotations is not a thing beælonging exclusively to the internet age - that has happened since classical times. ·Maunus·ƛ· 17:55, 12 June 2009 (UTC)
I see what you mean. Of course, the problem with google books is that it is not complete, but then again, I'm a little suspicious that none of the references I found has a page number. There is a possibility that it comes from someone else - Stuart Chase in [Harpers] in 1954. I don't have a subscription so I can't check the article. As it is, I'll bow to your better knowledge of Whorf's writing.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 18:34, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

GA ReviewEdit

This review is transcluded from Talk:Benjamin Lee Whorf/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: MathewTownsend (talk · contribs) 22:03, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

  • "but as a young man he took up an interest in linguistics. First taking an interest" - repeating "he took up an interest" - "taking an interest" - seek to vary wording
  • the quote "unlocked the mysteries" needs a citation directly after it.
  • the quote "utterly incompetent by training and background to handle such a subject." needs a citation directly after it.
  • I am copy editing as I go, which of course you are free to revert, but I believe my little changes make for smoother reading, variation of wording, MOS issues and such.

(will continue)

  • "They took it upon themselves to formulate a hypothesis" -should be "They formulated a hypothesis ..." - the wording as is sounds POV; in academics and in research, anyone is allowed to formulate a hypothesis based on whatever ideas they want. It's not considered that some academic researcher "took it upon themselves to formulate a hypothesis".
  • I feel this article must watch out for POV; it is a very positive view of the article's subject.
  • "claimed" see words to avoid. ("claimed" is one of them)
changed several instances (some claims are actually best described as claims, but I have removed some that could be more neutrally described in other words)
  • "when it was almost obligatory to disparage him" - is there a more neutral way to phrase this?
I've given it a try
  • "Black ridiculed what he called" - did Black use the word "ridiculed", or who used it? Need citation.
moved the citation to fit the quote - "ridicule" is my characterization which I don't think is controversial given that he talks about "amateurish crudity".
  • "linguists slowly began reading Whorf sympathetically again," - it's really not the job of linguists or any other academic/researcher to analyze data "sympathetically" - this tone sounds off base to me. That's not now academics works.
  • "Whorf however did not intend to make any statements about direct causality between language and behavior" - wikipedia doesn't know what Whorf "intended" - the encyclopedia only knows what the reliable sources say - and i don't someone's intentions are general knowable to another. We draw conclusions from behavior.
  • There's a combination of British and American English. Should be one or the other consistently.
  • Degree of influence of language on thought
  • I urge you to review your writing for neutrality. Our job as an encyclopedia is to present information without bias. Wikipedia doesn't malign or defend anyone.
rephrased some passages for more neutral presentation
  • These are my edits which of course you are free to change:[1]
  • The article is extremely interesting. You have done a good job. I don't think Whorf needs defending. He was operating in an academic environment where ideas/views come and go.
  • I will wait for your response and meanwhile put the article on hold.

MathewTownsend (talk) 00:12, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

Good points. I will work on this over the weekend. Some responses when I say "Black ridiculed hat he called ..." it seems obvious to me that Black didn't use the word ridicule but that he used the word that comes after called and that I am describing the tenor of his usage as ridiculing Whorf (Lee and Leavitt also sees Black's tenor in that way). About Whorf's intentions my statement is based on the work of Lee 1996 who has done a thorough job of reading whorf's works to try to find his actual intentions, I will include that it is her interpretation of his intention. Your comment about defending is well taken and i can certainly do something about that but I think it is necessary to evaluate the criticisms in light of newer and more in-depth scholarship. I also don't think that it is off the mark to say that some scholars read whorf more sympathetically than others - this is certainly the case and I can provide sources that says so. I think that the work of aany scholar is best understood through a sympathetic rather than a dismissive reading - and this is exactly the different between those scholrs who dismiss out of hand that Whorf's work could have any value and those who read it trying to uunderstand why Whorf said what he did. I do appreciate the point about neutrality and I do see several ways in which I can ork on that. Thanks for a thorough initial review.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 00:46, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
Oh, and not being a Native English writer I am not good at discriminating between British and American conventions, if you could copyedit that I'd be happy. It should be American spelling obviously.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 00:48, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
  • ok, great! (I'm glad that you took my comments in the spirit in which I intended. I think it is a fine article, really fascinating.) MathewTownsend (talk) 01:09, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
more review
  • The section "Early interest in religion and language" could be more concise:
I've condensed it some and brought the descrption of theosophy up to the first mention The point of the section is to summarise the scholarship about Whorf's relationship with religion, since he has sometimes been described as a Christian fundamentalist and at others as a theosophical mystic. The section is meant to show both claims and then weigh them according to their prominence in recent literature.
  • The article says "he was influenced by the mystic writings of Madam Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical movement"
  • [some intervening sentences, including that his children attended theosophical summer camps, his father's beliefs etc.], then:
  • "In his adult years Whorf's spiritual leanings seem to have be drawn to the teachings of the Theosophical Society, a nonsectarian organization which, based on Buddhist and Hindu teachings, promotes the view of the world as an interconnected whole and the unity and brotherhood of humankind "without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color"
  • I suggest that the description of the Theosophical movement/teachings be given when it is first mentioned in the section, so the subsequent mentions would have already been given context.
  • "Some sources have described him as a devout Methodist Episcopalian, impressed with fundamentalist ideas at an early age. The main reason for this belief seems to have been that as a young man he produced a manuscript titled "Why I have discarded Evolution", which has sometimes been taken by creationists to indicate that his later work critiquing science might be considered supportive of creationism."
  • So the same "evidence" that he was "a devout Methodist Episcopalian, impressed with fundamentalist ideas at an early age" (his manuscript as a young man) was also "sometimes been taken by creationists to indicate that his later work critiquing science might be considered supportive of creationism."?
Yes, different scholars have interpreted in different ways per NPOV I don't make a clear statement of which is correct but not the ways they each use the available evidence. Standard practice.
  • "Some sources" needs to be clarified and sourced, as do other vague wording e.g. "seems to have been", "sometimes been taken by creationists" , "suggest", "may have" etc. See MOS:Words to avoid
I have introduced the names of the authors into the text with attribution and removed some of the hedges. The use of hedges such as "may have" and "suggest" is often necessary for weighing contradictory interpretations without privileging one over the other. Sometimes removing them would bring the text out of line with the sources.
  • "Some of Whorf's unpublished manuscripts on spiritual matters also suggest that he was influenced by Blavatsky's ideas about cosmic evolution, which regards reincarnation as the source of evolution of human races towards continuously higher forms"
  • This is more on Blavatsky's/theosophical beliefs.
I've tried to consolidate this.
  • Suggest something like: "Whorf's unpublished manuscripts on spiritual matters reflect Blavatsky's ideas about cosmic evolution and reincarnation as the source of evolution of human races. [needs citation] towards continuously higher forms. - redundant as that's what evolution is.
That is emphatically not what evolution is, although it is perhaps a common misunderrtanding. Blavatsky's idea of cosmic evolution was a teleological kind of evolution with some racist implications that is not at all what evolution is considered to be today, and therefor it is necessary to include the description. The source is given below - it is standard practice not to introduce the same source multiple times when sourcing several consecutive statements.
  • "Theosophy as a philosophy does not recognize any dichotomy between science and mysticism, and promotes of the world based on relativism and holism – something that may have appealed particularly to Whorf. (this appears to be personal opinion. Is there a source that says this?)
Yes, the source given. I have removed the statement as unnecessary
  • Are all the statements in the last part of this paragraph cited by the last source at the end of the paragraph? If so, it needs to be stated who drew these conclusions, rather that being worded in the "wikipedian voice".
I disagree, it is not necessary to give in text attribution unless something is contentious, here it should be completely fine to have the citation at the end of the sentence. Overdoing in-text attribution makes for poor and clunky prose.
  • "and an almost cabbalistic approach to the study of meaning and writing" - who said this and what does it mean? (The link does not clarify.)
I've described what Joseph means when he says cabbalistic·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 12:26, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

(will continue)

MathewTownsend (talk) 01:21, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

  • I think you may be getting a little over-zealous here, Mathew. I would like to remind you that this is a GA review and not an FA review, prose quality is not a requirement. I think some of your comments are much too detailed for the GAC. Some of your suggestions are also not in line with standard practice for sourcing which does not require a separate citation for each sentence. Also when a source is presented after a statement in the "wikpedia voice" then it should go without requiring explicit attribution that the source is the source of the statement. That is simply how sourcing works - both in other articles and in professional publishing. Please try to stick to the GA criteria in your evaluation. I am not adverse to improving beyond the GA criteria but it was a conscious decision that I didn't nominate for FAC. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 02:23, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
  • "Whorf also didn't bring up his children" > did not
  • "an almost cabbalistic approach" - is the "almost cabbalistic" in the source? Maybe a quote from the source would be good here.
  • None of this section "Early interest in religion and language" seems to be summarized in the lede.
  • Sorry. I apologize for any overzealousness. Truly. I'm just trying to understand the article. For example, "sometimes been taken by creationists to indicate that his later work critiquing science might be considered supportive of creationism." is cited to one article[2] by Jerry Bergman, and as far as I can tell, is his opinion and doesn't make statements about what other creationists think. (I don't know the details of what creationists think, but are they so scholarly that groups of them use one early paper by someone who later became a linguist to support their views?) Does the whole bit about creationism even need to be in the article, as it doesn't seem to be relevant to anything before or after? (After all, he was influenced by Einstein, "became more influenced by positivist science" etc.) Perhaps a mention as a titbit in a footnote?
  • Apologize for my mistake about evolution - stupid of me - you are emphatically right.
  • If you are uncomfortable with me I can withdraw. Or we can get a second opinions. I certainly don't mean to make this an unpleasant experience for you. MathewTownsend (talk) 13:41, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
No, I'm not uncomfortable with you, I just feel you are going a little deeper into the prose than I would expect for a GA review. As I say I am happy with the feedback, but it is comfortable in a review situation to know what are suggestions for improvements that can be discussed and what is considered a requirement for passing the bar. I think some of your very helpful comments are above where the bar should be. The question of religion is relevant because as you can see two different relgion have claimed him as one of theirs. Perhaps you are right that Bergman shouldn't be called "creationists" - but other scholars (such as Lakoff 1987) have also expressed a belief that Whorf was a fundamentalist Christian. The claim that he was a Christian at least been so prominent that both Lee and Hutton and Joseph find it reasonable to refute, stressing rather his theosophical inclinations. Since the literature considers the question of Christian vs. Theosophical influences to be relevant so do I. I'll remove the "cabbalistic" description.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:00, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Wonderful that you're ok with me! As far as the religion thing, why does it matter so much what religion he was, other than interesting information about him and his thinking? I don't see how religion can be used to discredit someone's academic/scientific contributions. Skimming the article just now, the breadth and sophistication of his interests and his "influences" indicates he was a person greatly interested in ideas, not a person that was predominently interest in religion per se. (Or am I wrong?) MathewTownsend (talk) 19:14, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
The reason it matters is that it has mattered to the persons writing about Whorf, who have used it not necessarily to discredit his thinking but to understand it. Lakoff for example argues that it was Whorf's "fundamentalist Christian background" that made him interested in science. His statement has been repeated by some scholars and shown to be unfounded by others. Therefore it makes sense to report it. Also it is relevant because it was his interest in religion that started his interest in language. I agree that it doesn't seem that he was deeply religious, but more of a seeker of new ideas. But I don't know of any sources that write that explicitly.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 21:18, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
reply after a long time
  • This article is too long and repetitious to me and too filled with jargon. I can understand it, but only with great effort. The prose doesn't "come to life". I got all the way through "Resurgence of Whorfianism" and then my heart sank when I saw the huge "Work" section, since the "Biography" section seemed to cover influences on his thinking. Do you think some of this article could be spun off into daughter sections, per WP:MOS? "Writing should be clear and concise. Plain English works best: avoid ambiguity, jargon, and vague or unnecessarily complex wording." How about a sleeked down version, clear and to the point, so that a reader without a PHD in linguistic anthropology could understand? I have a PHD in a related field and a scientific background, so I thought I could handle it as the subject is interesting, but I'm saying "uncle"! MathewTownsend (talk) 00:03, 28 June 2012 (UTC)
I am very sorry to hear that. I don't know exactly what parts are difficult for you to understand, but I think that specialized work is always difficult to understand for people outside of the field, also when its written relatively clearly - I certainly don't understand everything in FA level articles about physics, math or chemistry for example. So I think some of it may be due simply to you having a different background. But I also recognize that the aims should be for the article to be useful to a general readership, and apparently I have failed on that account. I don't think it makes sense to spin out parts of the biography section, and the sections in the "work" section I already think I have written in summary style. I am not up for drastically condensing or simplifying the article at this point, that would feel like cutting limbs off my child, so probably you should just fail it if you do find the prose to be "ambiguous, jargony, vague or unneccesarily complex". But perhaps first, you could try to look at some other GA or FA article's in linguistics and see if you understand those better, or whether they also seem complex - I think that is the standard the article should be measured by. Personally, I honestly don't think the prose is overly complex, jargony or ambiguous and I believe that other GA and FA articles in linguistics are of a comparable level of difficulty. However, I will not be offended if you fail it for prose concerns - that is your decision as reviewer. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 00:35, 28 June 2012 (UTC)
another reply after a long time
  • I really don't get how Einstein's theory of relativity applies to linguistics, other than the idea that language is relative, but many things are relative and don't depend on Einstein's theory. MathewTownsend (talk) 00:38, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
The connection is Einsteins's idea that the observed reality is relative to the point of view of the observer. Whorf argued that language is part of the lens through which any observer observes reality. I'll be happy to clarify the relation to Einstein, even though it is a relatively [!] small part of the literature.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 00:44, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
Einstein said time was relative, depending on one's location in the universe, rather than a constant as we on earth think. But the observation that things are relative, depending on one's point of view was not a new idea. MathewTownsend (talk) 20:29, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
I am not going to agrue with you Mathew. I am just summarizing what the sources say. Are you going to fail the article or not? What is happening with the review?·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 20:31, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
  • I'm wading through it, but I can fail it if this is getting on your nerves. That way another reviewer can pick it up. MathewTownsend (talk) 20:43, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
I just like to know what is review and what is you expressing your personal tastes about prose or opinions about the content. That way I know what I have to work with. If you think, as you expressed above, that the article is too badly written and goes into too much detail then failing it is the option.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 21:03, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
  • I'm reading it as a general reader. My father is a plasma physicist and when I was a kid he explained the theory of relativity to me. So I think I grasp the concept. I personally think that if the article concentrated on explaining concisely Whorf's specific concepts of language, rather than trying to connect it to Einstein, it would be clearer. Hopi language use of tense is easy to understand. It's just that it's embedded in too much detail, from my point of view.
  • example in "Hopi Time" is these two statements:
  • "Malotki argues that the Hopi language has a tense system consisting of future and non-future, and that the only difference between the three tense systems of European languages and Hopi, is that the latter combines past and present to form a single category."
  • "Whorf described the Hopi categories of tense, but noted that they did not divide time into past, present and future as speakers of most European languages tend to do, but rather have one tense that refers to both present and past, and another to refer to events that have not yet happened at the time of speaking but which may or may not happen in the future."
  • Maybe it's personal taste. I don't know. It's true I like clear, concise language. This article isn't written in a clear and concise style as stated in the GA criteria.

MathewTownsend (talk) 21:42, 2 July 2012 (UTC)

1. what counts as "clear concise style" is obviously itself a question of taste . Whether or not you understand general relativity is besides the point, the reason I mention Einstein is that Whorf himself and his later interpreters have described his theory as being inspired by Einstein and the principle of relativity. I am not "trying to connect it to Einstein" - Einstein was a source of inspiration for whorf whether or not you agree with Whorf's interpretation of the relavance of general relativity. (He was also inspired the observer principle in quantum physics - but that would very likely be excessive detail). In the quote you mention I summarize a 600 page book, in one sentence. I don't see how that could be less detailed or more concise - or what would be gained by simplifying it. The Hopi time issue is one of the main controversies regarding Whorf's work and there are lietarlly a thousand pages published about the issue. It is very highly likely that a reader comes to this article to know what Whorf wrote about Hopi time and whether it is "right" or "wrong" - the very least I can do is give a fair summary of both the details of the critique and of the scholars who have defended Whorf's interpretation.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 22:11, 2 July 2012 (UTC)

GA review-see WP:WIAGA for criteria (and here for what they are not)

  1. Is it reasonably well written?
    A. Prose: clear and concise, respects copyright laws, correct spelling and grammar: 
    The article is too long and contains too much detail to make for clear reading. It contains a long biography and then a long section on the subject's work. I believe the article should be split in two. It also needs a good copy edit.
    B. Complies with MoS for lead, layout, words to watch, fiction, and list incorporation:  
    Those instances of POV I found were remedied. It needs a thorough check for POV issues.
  2. Is it factually accurate and verifiable?
    A. Provides references to all sources:  
    B. Provides in-line citations from reliable sources where necessary:  
    C. No original research:  
  3. Is it broad in its coverage?
    A. Main aspects are addressed:  
    B. Remains focused:  
  4. Does it follow the neutral point of view policy.
    Fair representation without bias:  
    I've made many suggestions regarding POV which were accepted, but the article needs a thorough check.
  5. Is it stable?
    No edit wars, etc:  
  6. Does it contain images to illustrate the topic?
    A. Images are copyright tagged, and non-free images have fair use rationales:  
    B. Images are provided where possible and appropriate, with suitable captions:  
  7. Overall:
    Pass or Fail:  

MathewTownsend (talk) 21:53, 2 July 2012 (UTC)

Comment before the bot closes this: I'm in the process of reading through and in my view the subject's work is what makes him notable, so I'd be careful about splitting out, fwiw. Truthkeeper (talk) 21:57, 2 July 2012 (UTC)

  • Sounds like you're saying the whole biography should be pared as non notable, and the article should concentrate on his work. It's true that much in the biography is about his work, so maybe you're right. MathewTownsend (talk) 22:12, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
No, that's not what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting that both are necessary. As it happens I'm vaguely familiar with the work that's been done in the 20th century with Native American linguistics, which is actually a phenomonal amount of work as some languages have been on the brink of extinction. I've never heard of Whorf until I read this page, but obviously he's a pioneer in a very important field, so both aspects are necessary in my view. I just wanted to say that his work is what makes him notable, that's all. Truthkeeper (talk) 22:33, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
My undergraduate degree had a minor in anthropology and I'm very familiar with Edward Sapir and others mentioned in the article. Being "vaguely familiar" is not the same as familiar. I'm quite aware of the fact that "Native American linguistics, which is actually a phenomonal amount of work as some languages have been on the brink of extinction". I think part of the problem with this article is the attitude that no one is knowledgable enough to review this article. And my many complaints about POV, wording, and the need for copy editing are the result of my ignorance or my failure to appreciate the subject matter. Looking at the copy edits you did today indicates you were seeing the same problems I did. Please don't presume and lecture. The nominator said: "I think you may be getting a little over-zealous here, Mathew. I would like to remind you that this is a GA review and not an FA review, prose quality is not a requirement." That is not true, and I failed the article primarily on the failure of the prose to be clear and concise. MathewTownsend (talk) 23:50, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
(ec)To be honest, I haven't read all of the review. I just happened to log in, had this on my list of things I've wanted to do, had an edit conflict with you and then saw all of this. I'm sorry if I came across as lecturing; I don't disagree that the prose needs tightening, but I wouldn't want to trim out his achievements. When I wrote that, I was thinking of Brothers Grimm which seems to have as much in it about their achievements as the bio, but I wrote it intentionally to be that way. Anyway, maybe some restructuring is in order for Whorf; I'm not sure as I was hitting various sections of the page so haven't yet read all of it. I certainly didn't mean to suggest that you were incompetent so please accept my apologies. Truthkeeper (talk) 00:24, 3 July 2012 (UTC)
There is a veiled accusation in your statement about "the attitude that no one is knowledgeable enough to review this article" - since the only person who could have had this attitude would be me. I think that a GA review shouldn't depend on knowledge of the topic but on knowledge about the standards for GA articles, I accept fully that you don't find the article to meet those criteria. However, I also do think though that you have turned the review into a question of your personal taste in how the article should have been written, that is setting an arbitrary standard that I have no possibility of meeting. I also think that you have suggested revisions that to my best judgement are not in line with the sources on which the article was written - in effect challenging my knowledge of how best to represent the sources (that would have been legitimate if you were familiar with the sources, in which case we could have had an argument). That is if you had simply reviewed for the GA criteria to begin with and simply said "I don't like the prose I'm gonna fail it" then the question of your appreciation of the topic would not have arisen. I admit that I had not considered the first criteria about clear and concise prose when I wrote that you were getting overzealous - that is because I have never before been told my articles have problems in that department. And in any case the requirement is clearly meant to be lower than the FA requirement - which I think your standard approaches. I also don't think it is accurate that you have pointed out prose problems that Truthkeeper88 is now fixing - I have addressed all of the specific problems that you have mentioned. The many vague and general complaints I obviously have not been able to address, not being a mind reader. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 00:06, 3 July 2012 (UTC)
  • Please don't personally attack me. You say there was a "the attitude that no one is knowledgeable enough to review this article". Truthkeeper88 above, based on a "vague familiarity" with the subject, suggested that I didn't understand the importance of the subject matter: "As it happens I'm vaguely familiar with the work that's been done in the 20th century with Native American linguistics, which is actually a phenomonal amount of work as some languages have been on the brink of extinction. ... I just wanted to say that his work is what makes him notable, that's all." The implication is that I'm a dunce, while you accuse me of failing the article on personal taste.
  • I often make suggestions when reviewing articles, as is preferable in conducting a GA review. In going through the whole biography section, almost all my suggestions were accepted (the clearly POV issues, etc., the characterizations of how academics treated Whorf, etc.) I also made 30 copy edits, and was the second highest contributor to the article until yesterday. You didn't seem to object to those. I just wasn't willing to go through an equally long "Works" section and do the same thing. I was copy editing you article and that's not the reviewer's job. Since his work is discussed in the biography section, the "Work" section needs also to be checked for repetition.
  • You basically requested me to close the article one way or the other (pass or fail). With massive cope editing issues remaining that obscured the meaning of the article, I could not pass it, so chose to fail per your statements. Since you wrote the article, you seem to have taken my review comments personally, and at times suggested that I was unable to understand the most basic concepts. I am a reviewer; this is wikipedia. To take my comments personally, rather than focusing on how the article could be improved is not the wikipedia way. MathewTownsend (talk) 12:18, 3 July 2012 (UTC)
I did not take your comments personally - you have clearly been taking mine that way. I have béen focusing exactly on how the article could be improved, I just don't agree with all of your suggested improvements. You were the one who decided to copyedit because of your stylistic preferences, nobody made you do that. But if a reviewer finds problems with the article then it is his job to state them in a way clear enough that they can be addressed - which you did. But then couldn't be bothered for the second half. I am completely fine with you failing the article and yes I asked you to do it. But I do maintain that you are failing it based in personal taste and not based on objective criteria, or even by comparison with other GAs about similar topics. Now lets let this article rest in peace. I am going to start drastically shortening it later today. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 12:48, 3 July 2012 (UTC)
  • Thanks for the review. I do disagree fundamentally with your opinion, but you being the reviewer I respect and accept your judgment. The argument that it is too long and detailed is a non-argument in my book. There are many Good Article much longer than this in wikipedia - which is in any case not a paper encyclopedia. The article obviously has to include both his biography and a description of his work - splitting either would be nonsensical. I also think the suggestion of remaining POV problems is unfair without providing examples from the article or from the literature.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 22:16, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
  • I'd modify that to say it's too long, detailed and unnecessarily wordy to be easily read, and in need of more copy editing. I see that Truthkeeper88 is today doing a bunch of copy editing and seems to be addressing the very issues that I finally gave up pointing out to you. I just didn't have the energy to copy edit the whole article myself and remedy all those things that Truthkeeper88 is today addressing. As it is, I did quite a bit. But I'm relieved someone else is taking it over. Best wishes, MathewTownsend (talk) 22:48, 2 July 2012 (UTC)


Pretty much done except for the lead, but I'm not very good with leads. At a quick glance I think the lead should be trimmed down a bit too to make it easier to read for the casual reader who doesn't make it through the entire article.

A couple of questions and points that I may have missed because I worked from the bottom up:

  • when did he quit his job with the Hartford?
  • what happened to his wife? There's a single sentence about his family, unless I missed some, and I think a bit more about his personal life, if the sources have that information, might be nice.
  • Maybe the anti-Whorfian/Whorfian section should be moved the bottom as a "Reception/legacy" type section.

That's about it. Back in a few days to finish the lead. Truthkeeper (talk) 00:14, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

He didn't he worked there untill he died.
I don't know, presumably she survived him. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 01:03, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
Did he work for the Hartford in Hartford, Connecticut? I ask b/c for some reason I seem to think they have an office in Boston so I thought he stayed in Boston after MIT. I could be wrong though. It's quite amazing that he managed to study, research and write as much as he did with a full-time job. Just curious. Truthkeeper (talk) 01:51, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
He lived in Winthrop and moved to Hartford when he got the job directly out of MIT, and he stayed in Hartford the rest of his life. The company may have an office in Boston, but he didn't work there. And yes it is pretty amazing - I think he probably had a lot of freedom as a traveling inspector. And I imagine him teaching Sapir's seminar at night after working during the day. I don't know what happened to his children, except that Penny Lee interviewed his daughter Celia for her book. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 02:04, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
Apparently Celia stayed in connecticut but Raymond moved to California [3]. And his grandson was a biologist and died in California in 2005. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 02:05, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
Yale is in the same state and it's a small state so possible. But still, very amazing. Thanks for clarifying. Truthkeeper (talk) 02:14, 18 July 2012 (UTC)


Alford 1981 p. 21 cites a 1941 Radio Speech by Einstein in which he says: "What is it that brings about such an ultimate connection between language and thinking?... The mental development of the individual and his ability to form concepts depend to a high degree upon language. This makes us realize to what extent the same language means the same mentality." He then goes on to analyze the parallels between Whorf's presentation of the linguistic relativity principle and Einsteins' principle of general relativity in depth. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 02:38, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

GA ReviewEdit

This review is transcluded from Talk:Benjamin Lee Whorf/GA2. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Tomcat7 (talk · contribs) 14:09, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

GA review (see here for what the criteria are, and here for what they are not)
  1. It is reasonably well written.
    a (prose):   b (MoS for lead, layout, word choice, fiction, and lists):  
  2. It is factually accurate and verifiable.
    a (references):   b (citations to reliable sources):   c (OR):  
  3. It is broad in its coverage.
    a (major aspects):   b (focused):  
  4. It follows the neutral point of view policy.
    Fair representation without bias:  
  5. It is stable.
    No edit wars, etc.:  
  6. It is illustrated by images, where possible and appropriate.
    a (images are tagged and non-free images have fair use rationales):   b (appropriate use with suitable captions):  
  7. Overall:

Ok, very good, just some nitpicks I have found (some of which I had previously corrected myself):

  • "In 1920 he married Celia Inez Peckham, who became the mother of his three children, Raymond Ben, Robert Peckham and Celia Lee.[4] Another famous anecdote from his job was used by Whorf to argue that language use affects habitual behavior.[6]" - I think either of these statements should be moved or reworded as irritating (marriage, then suddenly something quite different)
  • "of all groups of people with whom I have come in contact, Theosophical" - is the uppercase of "Theosophical" correct?
  • "According to these recent Whorf scholars a more accurate description of his viewpoint is that he thought translation to be possible," - I think the underlined should be written in lowercase
  • "Sociolinguistics and Linguistic anthropology" - should they be in lowercase?
  • In "Contributions to Linguistic Theory", why is the quote in italics?--Tomcat (7) 15:42, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
I've addressed these issues. "Theosophical" is a direct quote and appears in upper case in the original text, so I don't think it would be correct to change it.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 18:16, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
  • In light of the comments in the previous GA review could I ask you to make a specific comment on whether you find any remaining neutrality issues in the article? And whether you think there is information in the article that is redundant, irrelevant or which for other reasons shouldn't be part of a comprehensive article on Whorf?·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 18:19, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
  • I will go through this article once again. (I agree with Matthew that some wordings are POVy):
Ok, are the below examples of POVy language or more general comments on language? The more specific you can be about places where the article may come across as non-neutral the better I can address that issue.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 00:12, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
Early life
  • "who both went on to become distinguished artists. " - distinguished is weasily (why and how were they distinguised?)
  • "learning the Latin nomenclature of thousands of plants" - not sure why this is needed (does not seem to be that significant)
  • "Conquest of Mexico" leads to the actual conquest
Career in fire prevention
  • " (i.e., an inspector)" - do not abbreviate, write it out, per WP:ABBR
  • "He seemed to have a particular knack for job" - should be reworded; "seemed" is weasily, "knack" is colloquial
  • "Whorf was also excellent at attracting new customers to the Fire Insurance Company;" - weasily. How about "Whorf helped to attract new customers to the Fire Insurance Company; they favored his thorough inspections and recommendations. "
  • Why you put several times "empty" in quotes? And why at the end just "empty drums"?--Tomcat (7) 21:56, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
I have followed most of your suggestions, except the following:
i.e. "id est" is currently on the list of abbreviations that do not need to be written out in full, although apparently it is under discussion on the talkpage. I have simply removed the abbreviation here.
The reason for the use of scare quotes around "empty" is that Whorf argued that while the workers referred to them as "empty" because they no longer contained gasoline, they were in fact not empty, but rather full of flammable gasses. The scarequotes around "empty drums" show that this is a quote referring to Whorf's description of the drums that are called empty while they were in fact not, i.e. an example of the common use of scare quotes to " imply that it may not signify its apparent meaning or that it is not necessarily the way the quoting person would express its concept.". If you have an idea for a better way of showing that subtlety I am open for suggestions.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 01:29, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
Ok, the rest is fine. Passing now. Regards.--Tomcat (7) 15:46, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
Thanks!·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:51, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

External links modifiedEdit

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified one external link on Benjamin Lee Whorf. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, you may follow the instructions on the template below to fix any issues with the URLs.

As of February 2018, "External links modified" talk page sections are no longer generated or monitored by InternetArchiveBot. No special action is required regarding these talk page notices, other than regular verification using the archive tool instructions below. Editors have permission to delete these "External links modified" talk page sections if they want to de-clutter talk pages, but see the RfC before doing mass systematic removals. This message is updated dynamically through the template {{sourcecheck}} (last update: 15 July 2018).

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 04:39, 18 July 2017 (UTC)

Article nameEdit

I was astounded to see this article at Benjamin Lee Whorf with a redirect from Benjamin Whorf. But it appears to be correct, and I have learned something.

I studied Whorf fairly intensely in the mid 1990s and rarely saw his middle name mentioned, and then mainly in formal bibliographies. But Google books gives 41,400 hits as opposed to only 9,360 when I leave out the middle name.

The article was unilaterally moved ten years ago, 05:31, 11 September 2008‎ Rdsmith4 (talk | contribs | block)‎ . . (32 bytes) (+32)‎ . . (moved Benjamin Whorf to Benjamin Lee Whorf over redirect: Most common rendering of Whorf's name.) apparently without discussion, but apparently also quite correctly. That editor has not edited for almost a year so I don't think it's worth pinging them to ask for evidence. The evidence is there if you look. Andrewa (talk) 07:09, 12 March 2018 (UTC)

Having myself studied Whorf "fairly intensely", there is no doubt to me that the inclusion of the "Lee" is both more correct and more common in the literature. His mothers surname was "Lee Whorf" (Lee being her maiden name, and Whorf her husbands) and he passed "Lee Whorf" on to his daughter Celia. So "Lee" was not simply a middle name, but a maternal surname in his family. And as you correctly show, by far the most common way of referring to him in the literature is as "Benjamin Lee Whorf".·maunus · snunɐɯ· 07:57, 12 March 2018 (UTC)
Thanks, that confirms my research. Our reading lists must have been rather different, I wonder why? But the important thing is, any editor who has had a similar reading list to mine (or to the creator of the article, presumably) will now see this discussion, rather than just seeing an undiscussed and uncontroversially revertable move.
Fascinating guy, agreed? Andrewa (talk) 03:50, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
Agreed, on the correctness of the historic rename, and that he is a fascinating guy. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 04:23, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

Flammable and inflammableEdit

I can't source it right now and the article doesn't mention it (although it does cite a similar and far more relevant example, but later in his career). One of Whorf's investigations were of a paint factory fire. The non-English-background storeman knew that flammable liquids would ignite, so he reasoned that the drums marked highly inflammable would be highly unlikely to burn, and stored them next to the heater, and the plant burned down. This helped spark his curiosity into the way language works. Andrewa (talk) 05:44, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
The anecdote about the cannisters is in the article. It is a little different from what you remembered.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 06:21, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
Yes, that's what I meant above by a similar and far more relevant example. Do you mean they may be the same incident? Unlikely IMO, but I suppose possible. Andrewa (talk) 08:42, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
I think there is only one incident and someone may have misremembered it when recounting it. It seems very odd that two such similar incidents would have occured in his career. The one in the article is the only one I have ever encountered in the literature - he writes about it in his most famous and often quoted essay. ·maunus · snunɐɯ· 08:47, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
You may be right, I don't think we have evidence to be sure. Disagree that the incidents are so similar for it to be unlikely for him to have experienced both... he was employed by the fire insurance company for a number of years, and the accounts have many important differences.
But what most puzzles me about your confidence that they are the same incident is that the one for which we have sources, and can therefore be more confident of the details, is by far the more directly relevant to Whorf's main contributions to linguistics. While chinese whispers can do wonders, people tend to "improve" stories, rather than make them less relevant.
I still hope that someone will provide a source for the second story. That's the only justification for discussing it on this page at all. I may even find it myself... my library is still largely in boxes, but I'm not sure that I kept those notes anyway. Andrewa (talk) 10:39, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
Return to "Benjamin Lee Whorf" page.