A Typological Study of Inclusive Language—Livia M Ballow SpecGram Vol CXCI, No 2 Contents Quick Tips for Linguists and the Linguistics-Adjacent—Haystie ad Weisz

Evidence in Defense of the Strong Whorf Hypothesis

Reed Steiner


Many critics of the strong Whorf hypothesis argue that the evidence is not strong enough. However, a study conducted using four students and a copy of Deniss Villeneue’s Arrival suggests otherwise.

Literature review

While most good scholars accepted the strong Whorf hypothesis as an unquestionable fact,1, 2 there is a little bit of light criticism.3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 The predominant argument (it’s not a strawman because I cite a woman) is that Whorf wasn’t a linguist.23 However, this argument does not stand up to scrutiny. After all, Dictionary.com defines a linguist as “a specialist in linguistics,”24 and Whorf came up with the Whorf hypothesis, which is the most importantest hypothesis ever.25 Therefore, Whorf is a linguist and, therefore, Whorf is right.

With the main argument out of the way, the only arguments remaining in the literature involve anecdotal evidence, poor data, and over-application, speculation, misrepresentation of the Hopi language, weak formulation, and more. In other words, the only thing keeping people from believing the absolutely-true strong Whorf hypothesis is evidencesince when have linguists cared about that?

Thus, to clear up this misconception in the literature, I have discovered proof that the strong Whorf hypothesis is correct.


Four graduate students were divided into two different classrooms. Two students spoke only English. The third and fourth spoke English and took Spanish in high school so were basically fluent. Each of two classrooms had one English-only student and one Spanish expert. The first classroom watched Denniss Villeneueaux’s Arrival26 while the control room did not.

We didn’t think it through very well, so the students in the second classroom just sat around for 1h 56min. In retrospect, we probably should have left the lights on and door unlocked, since they quickly resorted to cannibalism, requiring us to start the experiment over with two new students.

Throughout the film, the students in the movie room were asked to play a few games on Duolingo in Turkish. The assumption was that watching Arrival while learning the language would give them the concept of needing-a-concept-in-your-language-to-understand-a-new-idea-ism, otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to learn anything new.

After the 1h 56min had elapsed, students were asked a series of prying questions about their beliefs and world-views. The participants were extremely uncomfortable, but it’s okay because they’re prescriptivists and, thus, very willing to force their opinions onto others.

To read the results, we compared the opinions of the students in the control room to the students in the movie/language room. If their beliefs differed, we could assume their worldview changed as a result of learning a new language.


Participants responded to each question as shown in the table below. The results clearly demonstrate that playing Turkish Duolingo changes your worldview.

Learned no new language
Played Turkish Duolingo
English only
English and Spanish
English only
English and Spanish
How many words are there for “snow”?
Ummm, snow, slush... 2?
I guess it depends on the language, but a lot in English.
Snow, ice, slush, slurrythere’s a lot.
God... Is this a Whorf thing?
How do you perceive time?
It goes forward I guess.
What do you mean? I’ve got a bunch of alarms on my phone, so I guess like that.
Left, rightall over the place hehe­he­he­hhe­he­he­he­hehe
Look, dude, it’s like a Google calendar for me, but it depends.
Can you see the future like in Denys Vlininin’s award-winning film Arrival?
I haven’t seen that movie.
I had to get really high to get through that movie so, ohhhh yeahh.
Of course not.
Where do we go when we die?
I don’t know... heaven or something?
Well, I’m Buddhist, but it depends on your beliefs.
Dude, it’s like all over the place right now. Fwooooosh
To the grave.
What type of pornography has most shaped your worldview?
I don’t knowwhy are you asking me these questions?
Hehe­he­hehe you know, bro. You know, bro.
That’s a loaded question.
Why did you sleep with my wife?
I’m leaving.
Clean with ramrod?
What are you even talking about?
What’s a ramrod, bro? Clean! Yeahh, this clean.
Don’t bring Shawnee into this.
I’m gonna get us lunch. Wanna come with?
Ummm don’t you mean “I am going to get lunch for us. Do you want to come with me?”
Ummm don’t you mean “I am going to get lunch for us. Do you want to come with me?”
Ummm don’t you mean “I am going to get lunch for us. Do you want to come with me?”

Note that the people who learned no new language had a different worldview than the people who played Turkish Duolingo.


As evident in the data, those who played Duolingo had different world-views than those who didn’t.

We realized afterwards that we probably could have checked their beliefs before and after teaching them Turkish, but that didn’t occur to us and the headline will be enough to make the point, anyway.

The most likely criticism of this experiment is that the sample size is too small, but it’s big enough in my opinion so don’t use that argument please, since it’ll hurt my feelings.


If you don’t agree, it’s not because I’m wrong. It’s because you don’t have a word in your dialect that lets you understand my point.

1 Whorf, Benjamin Lee (1940). Guys please listen to me! I’m right!

2 Whorf’s mom (maybe).

3 Ahearn, Laura M. (2012). WHORF IS WRONG.


5 Malotki, Ekkehart (1983). “DID WHORF UNDERSTAND HOPI??” Trends in Linguistics, edited by Werner Winter.

6 Pinker, Steven (1994). TEN WAYS WHORF IS WRONG.

7 Pinker, Steven (2007). WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE??


9 Chomsky, Noam (1973). WHORF BAD also y’all wanna hear about Universal Grammar again?

10 Ridington, Robin (1987). WHORF? MORE LIKE BARF­wow­that’s­problematic­I’m­sorry.

11 The rest of the citations on the Wikipedia article because I’m too lazy to sort through my messy desktop to find better sources.

12 My intro to linguistics textbook.

13 A ton of less pop-linguisticky papers I’m too lazy to list so can we just pretend they’re here?

14 George Steiner in After Babel I think.

15 Speakers of Inuit languages.

16 People who have words for colors.

17 Universalists.

18 Jim from Quora.

19 u/sygnisfive from r/linguistics.

20 Pinker again.

21 Google.

22 Everyone else.

23 Ahearn, Laura M. (2012). WHORF is wrong for a ton of reasons also he’s not really a linguist but that doesn’t matter as much as these other arguments so please don’t take it out of context.

24 Dictionary.com (2021) Linguist.

25 Me.

26 Vllnvnvn, Dnz (2016). Arrival.

A Typological Study of Inclusive LanguageLivia M Ballow
Quick Tips for Linguists and the Linguistics-AdjacentHaystie ad Weisz
SpecGram Vol CXCI, No 2 Contents