It reminds me of the flippant statement from my college days: Cognitive Psychology is the study of 18-21 year old psychology students.
The thing that I find most amusing (and most depressing at the same time) is that the subhead explicitly calls out Japanese...yet no Japanese speakers were used in the studies! Basically, Japanese has been lumped in their with Spanish based entirely on supposition.
So what we have is a single, small, unreplicated study, showing a very modest result that doesn't even properly wash out all dependent variables (Like the different academic entry requirements for Stanford, UC Merced and the University of Chili) being held up as showing a profound difference in human thought. It's irritating because you see these illogical leaps all the way from the original authors all the way up the chain, turning a mildy interesting suggestion into a hard fact of knowledge.
It's interesting, because I'm learning Japanese, and so have encountered exactly the form they are talking about, and what they are saying is a bit misleading. The literal translation of "I broke the vase" is:
This translates literally to: "Concerning me, broke the vase."
That's entirely standard Japanese, so in itself, the language no more avoids the assigning of blame than English. What it does do is drop pronouns. You rarely use explicit pronouns in Japanese. Instead, you set the "topic", and then if a subject is needed, it is assumed to be that. If no topic is set, it is assumed to be "I". So the above could have just as easily been:
This translates literally to: "broke the vase."
This could mean, "I broke the vase" or "He broke the vase" or "The dog broke the vase" depending on what came before, but, from what I understand, it isn't really avoiding casting blame. Taken on its own, it does literally mean "I broke the vase". So:
Means: "The dog is cute. It broke the vase." even though it is literally "Concerning the dog, cute is. Broke vase." Despite the second sentence seeming ambiguous, the two as a whole are not at all ambiguous about assigning blame.
Of course, the entire problem with Sapir-Whorf is that it is likely impossible to actually separate culture and language. Even if we find that the Japanese assign blame less, and that Japanese text tends to gloss over the assignment of blame more, we have to ask ourselves if it is the language that is driving the Japanese to act like that, or has the Japanese culture created a language that suits its already existant ways of thought?
(And interesting side note in this: the Japanese words for "He" and "She" are relatively recent, coming with Western attitudes in the 19th century.)
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