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In Nietzsche's first essay in A Geneaology of Morals, he suggests that use of language in which subjects and verbs are distinguished may influence or at least correspond to conceptual distinctions in notions of causality and subsequent moral accountability.

In what other work has this idea appeared prior or since? Language may shape cognition generally; I am specifically interested in work regarding the emergence of notions of agency or theory of mind as downstream effects of verbs having subjects in sentences of common structure.

  • My recent answer is related to this. The general search terms are "linguistic relativity" and "linguistic determinism" studied by Whorf and others – Rusi Jun 14 at 2:31
  • @Rusi My understanding is that grammatical statements in the most common languages today tend to include subjects (doers) and verbs (deeds). The academic discrediting of linguistic determinism may suggest that cognitive structures along the lines of subjects and verbs may emerge independent of language use; Nietzsche seems to acknowledge this when he indicates that language is a "fossilization" of thought or reason. Eprime is interesting in this context because its users seem interested in emphasizing causal attributions to subjects/agents over the vagueness of the passive voice, for example. – bblohowiak Jun 14 at 17:32
  • I would be surprised if something noun-like and verb-like were totally absent from any language. The claim that whorf makes is less extreme and more easily verifiable viz. The SAE (standard average European) languages which almost straightjacket all sentences to be subject-predicate is NOT universal in the world's languages. Eg the nominal sentence on the one side Vs the pure-verb sentences like "flashed" (Hopi) on the other – Rusi Jun 14 at 17:44
  • I recently saw this interesting evidence of linguistic relativity. – Rusi Jun 15 at 2:03

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