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Philosopher Wittgenstein says that "the limit of my language means the limit of my world". One theory that supports this statement is that people couldn't see the blue colour until they have the word blue. However, it has been proven to be false in Skeptics: Could people perceive the color blue in ancient times?

So, is there any scientific evidence that prove (or at least agree with) this statement?

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    $\begingroup$ And by limit you mean an inability to percieve thing that you don't have a word for? $\endgroup$ – Alex Jun 28 '16 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Alex I'm not sure where to start, so it's a good one $\endgroup$ – Ooker Jun 29 '16 at 2:26
  • $\begingroup$ Math is a language too. Can I quantify a color? Absolutely. That does not necessarily impart meaning as humans are won't to do...for example "purple" is the color of Royalty so while me might be able to recreate a color into our physical realm "with nary a word" we might be missing out on its "substance" since as humans we are wont to draw inferences based upon our experientialism. In other words perhaps what you should ask is "does the mere fact of seeing something evoke a response with not a word spoken?" And of course the answer is yes. $\endgroup$ – Doctor Zhivago Jun 29 '16 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ New words, new happiness. Something new to satisfy our brains needs sometimes bored about having the same experience. $\endgroup$ – biotech Jul 4 '16 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ A good repertoire of words and ideas is one of the cheapest ways to be happy. We can then communicate and have conversations enough interesting to forget about other needs, sometimes physical. We can travel without moving. $\endgroup$ – biotech Jul 4 '16 at 13:06
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This is not quite your question, but it's the closest thing I know of. There's a significant amount of work suggesting that purely morphological attributes can shape conceptualization: looking at the impact of grammatical gender on the attributes assigned to the nouns that have a specific grammatical gender--that is, grammatically male nouns are rated higher on stereotypically masculine attributes and lower on stereotypically feminine attributes. You could argue that morphological sway on the semantic content of the noun is a "limit", I suppose.

Some studies have done nice pairing of languages to demonstrate reverse effects on the same nouns according to different grammatical gender. If you're interested in reading the studies, Konishi 1993 is a good place to start.

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry to bother you here but it's your last post. I'm really happy to see you back in the reviewers list. Please feel welcomed to answer questions too. Your contributions have been awesome and I love reading your posts. All the best! $\endgroup$ – AliceD Aug 23 '17 at 23:09
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First some linguistic theory background.

Noam Chomsky has hypothesized that language developed internally to facilitate certain aspects of human cognition. According to Chomsky's hypothesis, human ability to articulate language audibly for communication appeared much later. Chomsky claims that the rather sudden emergence of language as communication points to the longer evolution of this internal language as an underpinning of human cognition.

Further, Chomsky holds that this evolution of language results from an "organ" in the human mind, which evolved to provide the facility of language. That is why a child of 18 months can begin to speak, despite rather sparse informational language context.

This all suggests that human cognition is tied intimately to language, and that human language is a narrower facility than might otherwise be thought.

Therefore, the limits of human language, generally, almost certainly limits your cognition, perception of the world, and capacity to cognitively model reality.

There are, however, other cognitive systems than language. The system that allows temporal spatial imaging, for example. Another example is the visual system that perceives color, which is almost certainly much older than the human cognitive system, evolutionarily speaking. Therefore, even prior to having the capacity of speech, our evolutionary ancestors could perceive blue, even without a word for it. However, they lacked the capacity to imbue the perception with meaning beyond the drives that color perceptions trigger, such as eating ripe fruit.

Does this mean that they really did not see what we call "blue"? That is an interesting point for further discussion.

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  • $\begingroup$ So the quote should be modify to "the limit of my language is a limit of my world"? $\endgroup$ – Ooker Jul 8 '16 at 18:02
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"Blue" exists in a context of blue. If the mind presented itself with the linguistic expression (word) "blue" at every perception of the colour blue, then the world is limited to the expression. The context of blue-ness (the experience at 10 fathoms below the surface of the sea), and the complexity of expressions incorporating blue-ness is Wittgenstein's point. The richness of blue-ness and language comes from the unlimited ways to which it (a concept/perception) may be referred or expressed.

Language development in children as an indicator of social advantages would support this view of the merits of richness for setting limits to a world... Language and Social Disadvantage: Theory into Practice, or The Contribution of Early Communication Quality to Low-Income Children’s Language Success

In terms of the origin of the colour.. Why would the word "blue" be necessary if the colour was imperceptible? Perhaps this is an ease-of-use linguistic negation. For example: blue replaced the "not red", "not crimson" naming scheme - a world limited by nouns.

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    $\begingroup$ This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. $\endgroup$ – Arnon Weinberg Jan 7 '18 at 18:48
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Very interesting question! Patrick Winston - profesor at MIT said: "If you can name something, you get power over it!" Prove by contradiction: Suppose someone cannot explorer new things. Then give 3 cards (pink, blue, green) to that person who does not know blue as a color. The person will recognize "blue" as a color. If you don't tell the name "blue" it will be some other words, for sure, but we have the ability for generalization which leads to no limits of our world.

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There is actually whole field dedicates for this: Cognitive linguisitics

Cognitive linguistics (CL) an interdisciplinary branch of linguistics, combining knowledge and research from both psychology and linguistics. It describes how language interacts with cognition, how language forms our thoughts, and the evolution of language parallel with the change in the common mindset across time.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, you ask if there's evidence. The fact that there's a field of study dedicated to this alas does not prove there is (conclusive) evidence... only that the problem is interesting. And what you ask about is mostly the most controvesial part of CL, namely linguistic relativity aka the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis. $\endgroup$ – Fizz Jan 7 '18 at 7:43
  • $\begingroup$ I understand that, but my question doesn't reflect what I'm really looking for (which is about research field actually), and I don't understand much the given answers. I can't edit the question because there are several answers already. Since only answers can be accepted, I post it as an answer, not comment. But the other most voted answers are readily next to mine $\endgroup$ – Ooker Jan 7 '18 at 8:09

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