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Edward Sapir

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Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the "real world" is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group. No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached ... We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.
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The Status Of Linguistics As A Science (1929), p. 69

 
Edward Sapir

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Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group... We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.

 
Steven Pinker
 

The more language is a living operation, the less we are aware of it. Thus it follows that from the forgetfulness of language that its real being consists in what is said in it. What is said in it constitutes the common world in which we live. … The real being of language is that into which we are taken up when we hear it — what is said.

 
Hans-Georg Gadamer
 

Language and the human spirit are inextricably intertwined. We interpret the world through language. We express ourselves through language. Language is powerful. Language can bring us together or set us apart. It can be used to include — to bridge barriers between cultures, religions, worldviews — at the same time as it can be used to exclude by inflaming xenophobia and racism. Language can establish community and solidarity at the same time as it can be used to erect boundaries and divide communities. More often than not, when we turn on the TV we see language used to occlude — to hide reality — to deceive, to spin, to distract, to disempower, to reinforce us versus them conceptions of humanity. Language is no longer innocent. We can no longer conceptualize language as some kind of neutral code that can be taught in classrooms in splendid isolation from its intersection with issues of power, identity, and spirituality.

 
Jim Cummins
 

Our ability to destroy ourselves is the mirror image of our ability to save ourselves, and what is lacking is the clear vision of what should be done... What needs to be done is that fundamental, ontological conceptions of reality need to be redone. We need a new language, and to have a new language we must have a new reality... A new reality will generate a new language, a new language will fix a new reality, and make it part of this reality.

 
Terence McKenna
 

"Language is not an image of reality", assures Mr. Rorty, a pragmatist and anti-Platonic philosopher. Should we interpret this sentence in the sense Mr. Rorty calls 'Platonic', that is, as a denial of an attribute to one substance? It would be contradictory: a language that is not an image of reality cannot give us a real image of its relations with reality. Therefore, the sentence must be interpreted pragmatically: it does not affirm anything about language, but only indicates the intention to use it in a certain way. The main thesis of Mr. Rorty's thought is a declaration of intentions. The sentence "language is not an image of reality" rigorously means this and nothing else: "I, Richard Rorty, am firmly decided to not use language as an image of reality." It is the sort of unanswerable argument: an expression of someone's will cannot be logically refuted. Therefore, there is nothing to debate: keeping the limits of decency and law, Mr. Rorty can use language as he may wish. The problem appears when he begins to try to make us use language exactly like him. He states that language is not a representation of reality, but rather a set of tools invented by man in order to accomplish his desires. But this is a false alternative. A man may well desire to use this tool to represent reality. It seems that Plato desired precisely this. But Mr. Rorty denies that men have other desires than seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. That some declare to desire something else must be very painful to him, for, on the contrary, there would be no pragmatically valid explanation for the effort he puts in changing the conversation. Given the impossibility to deny that these people exist, the pragmatist will perhaps say that those who look for representing reality are moved by the desire to avoid pain as much as those who prefer to create fantasies; but this objection will have shown precisely that these are not things which exclude each other. The Rortyan alternative is false in its own terms.

 
Richard Rorty
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