ICES Brown Bag for November 9

Events, Seminars | November 1, 2017

Join us for the next ICES Brown Bag Lecture of the semester, featuring Yang Yang.

Prof. Yang, of Sun Yat-sen University, will discuss her paper Grammar and Meaning: An Experimental Analysis of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (Abstract). The talk will take place on Thursday, November 9th, from 12:00 to 1:00pm, in room 5075 of the Vernon Smith Hall (formerly Metropolitan Building), Arlington campus.

Coffee and dessert will be provided.

Please visit the Brown Bag Schedule to learn more about the Brown Bag series.


The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (SWH) is that grammar affects how one interprets one’s environment and experiences. The importance of SWH to economic decision-making has been noted (Chen, 2013) yet rigorous evidence on its validity has remained elusive (Roberts et al, 2015). Our paper fills this gap by reporting data from a laboratory experiment of SWH. Participants take part in communication games in which grammars emerge. By varying the incentives of the communication environment, we can affect the nature of the emergent grammar. This enables us to randomly assign people to different grammars. We then ask people using different grammars to interpret the meaning of the same items. We find clear evidence of that the structure of language does influence the way its users interpret objects. Our findings offer the first support of SWH using data from a controlled laboratory experiment.

<<< Back to News Page