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Language quiz: does the world look the same in any language?

Language quiz: does the world look the same in any language?

The Japanese language has a single word that encompasses both green and blue colors, whilst the Russian language has separate terms for different shades of blue. So does this mean that people who speak Russian and Japanese perceive these colors differently from English speakers? And even more questionably: are we only able to form concepts of things for which we have a name?

Many people argue that language does indeed shape the way we view the world—and that cultures with different ways of naming things will see the world differently. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, first formulated in the 1930s, famously advances this view. The hypothesis grew in influence amongst linguists, anthropologists, and psychologists and the media often argue that having distinct names for particular colors makes people perceive them more vividly.

Language HoaxHowever, according to linguist John McWhorter, this hypothesis is just plain old wrong. In his new book The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language, McWhorter reveals that no such connection has ever been discovered. Even though a language’s vocabulary and grammar may influence its speakers’ culture, it does not determine the way they see the world. Thus, someone living on the other side of the world from you—speaking a different language and doing very different things— will see the world in the same way as you see it.

Do you agree with McWhorter? How well do you know other languages? Take our quiz below and gain a whole new perspective on the world!

Language quiz: does the world look the same in any language?

Game Over

In Thai there are ____ different grades of formality to choose from when addressing someone as ‘you’.
A 3
B 7
C 10
D 5
Imagine sitting at a computer screen and seeing a horizontal line lengthening on the monitor before you. Which person would have the best chance of determining when this line will ultimately reach its end point?
A An English speaker
B A Spanish speaker
C A Greek speaker
D An Italian speaker
What is the word for ‘blue’ in Russian?
A Синий (siniy)
B голубой (goluboy)
C лазурный (lazurnyy)
D There is no word for blue in Russian.
Why did Yale Economist Keith Chen propose that native Chinese Speakers were more likely to save money than their English speaking counterparts?
A There are seven different words for ‘invest’ in Chinese.
B The term ‘wealth’ can also mean ‘royalty’.
C There is no regular future tense in Chinese.
D The words for poverty and death sound similar in Chinese.
In English adding the letter ‘s’ to most nouns denotes plurality. Similarly the letters ‘oi’ are added to nouns to signal plurality in Fur, the language spoken in Darfur.
A True
B False
When Chinese speakers want to say ‘next month’ what they say translates literally as:
A The month under
B The month beside
C The month below
D The month above
In Hopi, the word Masa’ytaka means:
A Cooking water
B Leaves that have already fallen from trees
C Early morning light
D All things that fly except birds

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