Sapir-Whorf Spot Check
Sapir-Whorf Spot Check is a series of automatic drawings performed in the dark while listening to two languages that evolved in similar geographical conditions on two different continents, namely Sámi spoken in northern Europe and Eyak used in Alaska. By looking at similarities and differences among languages of the Arctic Circle Aga tried to reflect on the relationships between thought, language, geography and culture.
The Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis formulated by American linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf started the debate on the human relationship with language and cognition early in the twentieth century (Sapir 1929, Whorf 1940). Sapir and Whorf came to the conclusion that it is our culture that determines our language, which in turn determines the way in which we categorise our thoughts about the world and our experiences in it. The strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which claims that language determines what we can think, and therefore what we can say, has been very difficult to test and prove, as it would require investigation into an individual’s worldview without the usage of language. However, its weaker form suggesting that language might influence our experience of reality, and is part of our cognition, has been widely accepted.
Age led automatic drawing workshops for speakers of different languages in which she invited them to respond to the audio recordings in Eyak made by Guillaume Leduey. Eyak is an extinct Na-Dené language historically spoken by the Eyak people, indigenous to south-central Alaska. The last speaker of Eyak, Marie Smith Jones, died in 2008. The Eyak community has been trying to re-learn its language.