A direct consequence of the relation that M asserts between the genetically and syntactically determined components of cognitive reach is a denial ofthe strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and a trivialization of the weak version. To understand how this is so, imagine a dynamic version of Figure 1 (like a cartoon or movie) that would represent what happens as language is acquired. Basically, by acquiring the grammar and lexicon of a natural language we expand what we can express in language to include much (although perhaps not all) of what we can understand in mentalese. Graphically, we can imagine the size of the proper subset expanding within the area of its superset as shown in Figure 3.
Pinker scoffs at the Sapir-Whorf (S-W) hypothesis. This attitude is based on the argument that humans think without language in “mentalese”. For Pinker, mentalese is a species-wide, innate function that is unaffected by the process of learning a language or the process of using a language. All actual and possible thought is, or would have to be, conducted in mentalese. Clearly, if what can be thought is limited to the reach of our genetically determined cognitive component, then the syntax of the language or languages we speak can’t possibly limit what we think (the strong version of the Sapir-Whorf (S-W) hypothesis). At most it can limit what we say or write.
(January 26, 1884– February 4, 1939) was an American anthropologist-linguist, aleader in American structural linguistics, and one of the creatorsof what is now called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. He is arguablythe most influential figure in American linguistics.
The most extreme opposing position—that language has influence on thought—is widely considered to be false (Gumperz: introduction to Gumperz 1996). But the strong version of the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, that language determines thought, is also thought to be incorrect. The most common view is that the truth lies somewhere in between the two. Current linguists, rather than studying whether language affects thought, are studying it affects thought. Earlier, the bulk of the research was concentrated on supporting or disproving the hypothesis; the experimental data have not been able to disprove it. (Lucy 1992; Gumperz & Levinson 1996)
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is the that the structure of a shapes or limits the ways in which a speaker forms conceptions of the world. A weaker version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (sometimes called neo-Whorfianism) is that language influences a speaker's view of the world but does not inescapably determine it.