What Is the Relationship Between Language and Thought?: Linguistic Relativity and Its Implications for Copyright

65 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2021 Last revised: 30 Sep 2021

See all articles by Christopher S. Yoo

Christopher S. Yoo

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication; University of Pennsylvania - School of Engineering and Applied Science

Date Written: September 27, 2021

Abstract

To date, copyright scholarship has almost completely overlooked the linguistics and cognitive psychology literature exploring the connection between language and thought. An exploration of the two major strains of this literature, known as universal grammar (associated with Noam Chomsky) and linguistic relativity (centered around the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis), offers insights into the copyrightability of constructed languages and of the type of software packages at issue in Google v. Oracle recently decided by the Supreme Court. It turns to modularity theory as the key idea unifying the analysis of both languages and software in ways that suggest that the information filtering associated with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis may be a general strategy for managing complex systems that is not restricted to language. It also examines Jerry Fodor’s application of modularity theory to cognition and his Language of Thought Hypothesis to see what they reveal about the idea-expression dichotomy.

Keywords: Copyright, linguistics, cognitive psychology, Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, linguistic relativity, Chomsky, universal grammar, linguistic relativity, constructed languages, modularity theory, information filtering, idea-expression dichotomy

Suggested Citation

Yoo, Christopher S., What Is the Relationship Between Language and Thought?: Linguistic Relativity and Its Implications for Copyright (September 27, 2021). U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 21-32, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3924471 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3924471

Christopher S. Yoo (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.law.upenn.edu/faculty/csyoo/

University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication ( email )

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University of Pennsylvania - School of Engineering and Applied Science ( email )

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