"The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its speakers are able to conceptualize their world, i.e. their world view. Popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined as having two versions: (i) the strong version that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories and (ii) the weak version that linguistic categories and usage influence thought and certain kinds of non-linguistic behavior.
The idea was first clearly expressed by 19th century thinkers, such as Wilhelm von Humboldt,
who saw language as the expression of the spirit of a nation. The early
20th century school of American Anthropology headed by Franz Boas and Edward Sapir also embraced the idea. Sapir's student Benjamin Lee Whorf
came to be seen as the primary proponent as a result of his published
observations of how he perceived linguistic differences to have
consequences in human cognition and behavior. Harry Hoijer, one of Sapir's students, introduced the term "Sapir–Whorf hypothesis", even though the two scholars never actually advanced any such hypothesis. Whorf's principle of linguistic relativity was reformulated as a testable hypothesis by Roger Brown and Eric Lenneberg who conducted experiments designed to find out whether color perception
varies between speakers of languages that classified colors
differently. As the study of the universal nature of human language and
cognition came into focus in the 1960s the idea of linguistic relativity
fell out of favour among linguists. A 1969 study by Brent Berlin and Paul Kay
claimed to demonstrate that color terminology is subject to universal
semantic constraints, and hence to discredit the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis."