Casual observation would tell you that there is almost definitely a correlation between a language and the culture of its speakers. An interesting case in point is the language of an Amazon tribe, the Pirahã: It has been observed that the Pirahã language has no words for numbers, and it's said that the members of the tribe cannot perform even the most basic arithmetic, even after a linguist spent eight months teaching the enthusiastically studious Pirahã. This raises a simple question, but perhaps the answer is deeply involved and complicated: Is a language a product of its speakers' culture, or does the language influence the culture? An argument either way seems reasonable: As a hunter-gatherer tribe, they may have had no real need for counting things like we do, so there was no need to have this concept enshrined in their language, and it may have been shed off. On the other hand, it could be that this feature of their language predated their culture and somehow rendered the concept of counting inapplicable to their culture, so consequently they don't concern themselves with counting things. From this follows a related question, whose answer is probably just as complicated: Does the innate structure of a language — its grammar and vocabulary — fundamentally dictate, even set limits on, how you think? Given the claim that the Pirahã can barely count, this would seem to be the case. This idea that language limits your thought has been used in literature. In George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Newspeak replaces English and is intended to render thoughts and ideas which would lead to a revolutionary overthrow of the government literally unthinkable. In Anthem by Ayn Rand, the government of a collectivist dystopia, in an attempt to eliminate the concept of individuality, has made the utterance of the word "I" punishable by death. The Sapir–Whorf hypothesis argues that the nature of a given language, such as the distinctions it makes in its grammar, influences the habitual thoughts of its speakers. But to what extent? And in what way? Is the influence such that some concepts are nearly unthinkable by speakers of the language? And is it instead a case of the habitual thoughts of the speakers influencing the innate characteristics of their language? Or is it all the above? How does this all fit into the fact that languages evolve into new languages over time, and that all languages on Earth may have a common ancestor? Discuss. Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!