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.
Copyright, linguistics, cognitive psychology, Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, linguistic relativity, Chomsky, universal grammar, linguistic relativity, constructed languages, modularity theory, information filtering, idea-expression dichotomy
Yoo, Christopher S., "What Is the Relationship Between Language and Thought?: Linguistic Relativity and its Implications for Copyright" (2021). Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law. 2625.
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