The Influence of Language on Thought: Relativity, Acquisition, and Standardization


Start Date: Sep 18, 2020 - 10:00am

Location: Presented via Zoom

On Friday, September 18 at 10 am, Dr. John Lucy of the University of Chicago presented his talk The Influence of Language on Thought: Relativity, Acquisition, and Standardization as part of the Anthropology Colloquia Speaker Series.  

John A. Lucy received his Ph.D. in Human Development from the University of Chicago in 1987. He has taught in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently the William Benton Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Comparative Human Development and of Psychology at the University of Chicago and an Associate Faculty member in the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Latin American Studies. He has done over thirty years of ethnographic, linguistic, and psychological research among the Mayan-speaking people of the Yucatan region of Mexico.

Lucy's research focuses on the relation between language and thought, especially on the role language plays in shaping thought. His early work was comparative, examining the linguistic relativity hypothesis, that is, the proposal that the particular language we speak influences the way we think. This work appeared in Language Diversity and Thought (Cambridge, 1992), which reviewed the history of research in this field; Grammatical Categories and Cognition (Cambridge, 1992), which outlined a new empirical approach; and in various papers that analyze contemporary research (e.g., Lucy 1996, 1997, 2014, 2016). His later work has added a developmental perspective, exploring how languages come to influence thought during middle childhood (e.g., Lucy & Gaskins 2001, 2003; Lucy 2004, 2010). Most recently, he has been exploring the role that linguistic relativity plays in second language acquisition (e.g., Lucy 2016) and language standardization. Running through all this work has been a concern with how language affects how we think about language itself. This work has appeared in his edited volume Reflexive Language: Reported Speech and Metapragmatics (Cambridge, 1993) and in various papers (e.g., Lucy 2010, 2011).

Lucy has been Guggenheim Fellow, a Mellon Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and, on three occasions, a Visiting Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. He has received major research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Department of Education, the Social Science Research Council, and the Spencer Foundation. He has served as an officer in the Society for Linguistic Anthropology and the Society for Psychological Anthropology. At the University of Chicago, he has served as the Chair of the Department of Comparative Human Development, as Master and Deputy Dean of the Social Sciences, and as Coordinator of the Indigenous Language Programs in the Center for Latin American Studies.

Hosted by the Department of Anthropology and the Alfonso Ortiz Center for Intercultural Studies, the Department Colloquia Speaker Series will be held virtually via Zoom on Fridays at 10 am.  Upcoming speakers include (more details forthcoming): 

Sept 25 April Kamp-Whittaker (UNM)
Oct 2 Katherine Peck (UNM)
Oct 9 Shamsi Berry (Western Michigan)
Oct 16 Manvir Singh (Harvard)
Oct 23 Milena Carvalho (UNM)
Dec 4 Helen Davis (Harvard)
Dec 11 Amanda Lea (Princeton)