Is there a political version of Sapir-Whorf?


It’s the fourth month of my pseudo-retirement from scholarly pursuits.  It’s been a sort of reverse-sabbatical, I suppose.  Not that I’ve been idle.  Besides the increasing demands of a job at an institution whose future is uncertain, I have been trying to make up in four months what students in Ireland have fourteen years to do.  I doubt very seriously that I could pass the Certs at this point, but that’s a goal for the not-too-distant future.

Part of the joy of learning a new language is that you get an insight into a culture that would otherwise be unavailable to you.  Saying that you get an insight into a culture by learning its language is, of course, as meaningless as it is true.  But I would say that in the case of Irish, it is more meaningful than true.  It must be said that here in the 21st century, Gaelic is much more a part of Ireland’s politics than its culture.  I’m not sure I’d have any better handle on Irish customs and traditions if I spent a year there trí Ghaeilge (if such a thing were even possible) than I’d have through English.  Even the weakest version of Sapir-Whorf won’t hold up in Ireland.

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