Hello and welcome

This is the website of Eve Danziger, Professor of linguistic anthropology at the University of Virginia.  I write, teach and think about the Principle  of Linguistic Relativity.

This Principle starts from the obvious facts that (1) there is usually more than one way to think about any problem, and (2) the particular approach that a person takes depends on his or her past experience. Linguistic Relativity proposes that speaking a particular language is one of the kinds of experience that is relevant to selecting strategies in conceptual problem-solving. For example, if your language obliges you to state the cardinal direction (north south east west) every time you talk about something that moves, you might be particularly good at solving spatial problems. Speaking a particular language could make some kinds of strategies and solutions seem more natural than others, even on an unconscious level.  This would mean that we could learn about alternative ways of approaching the external world by studying and learning other languages.

I have approached the question by getting to know as much as I can about a language that is very different from the languages of Europe: the Mopan Maya language and its relatives in the Mayan language family. These are Native American languages spoken in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Today’s speakers are descendants of the famous Ancient Maya who left their pyramids and hieroglyphic inscriptions all over the same territory. I use methods from linguistics, cognitive science and ethnography to approach the question of linguistic relativity. I also train and supervise graduate students in anthropology who have an interest in the intersection between language and culture, or in the indigenous languages and cultures of Native America.