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Definition and Examples of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis illustrates the stucture of one language strongly affect the world-view of its speakers....

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Sapir-Whorf hypothesis | Define Sapir-Whorf hypothesis …

In these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that even after almost a decade of initiation into academic linguistics the attitude to his ideas of his closest colleagues in the field tended to be unenthusiastic. It is, for instance, interesting to read the sections of Lee's monograph that deal with Whorf's relations with the Yale linguist George L. Trager. From 1937 to 1938, the two of them planned to team-teach a course in the Yale department of Anthropology, which ended up being taught by Whorf alone after Trager succeeded in obtaining funds for a study tour to Germany. The extensive written report on the theorizing that went into their year-long course on "configurative" linguistics was apparently drafted by Whorf alone, without Trager's co-operation, because, as Lee plausibly surmises, Trager lost interest in the project (see Lee, pp. 251-280, esp. p. 253fn.).

2. Sapir's and Whorf's relativism was spurious. They were in reality dogmatic anti-traditionalists.

However, Whorf's position seems, at least on the surface, to be more complicated than Sapir's. In his article "Grammatical Categories," he places much emphasis on the difference between categories whose presence in a sentence is indicated by some special overt morphemic marker, and categories which betray their presence "by the systematic avoidance of certain morphemes, by lexical selection, by word-order that is also CLASS-ORDER, in general by association with definite linguistic configurations" (Carroll, p. 88). Plurality is an example of an overt category in English because plural nouns are marked as such by a specific ending. Gender, on the other hand, is a covert category since it is signaled by lexical selection (Helen rather than George, for example) and by the use of different pronouns as substitutes for the two types of noun (Helen is replaced by she, while George is replaced by he).

Ask A Linguist FAQ: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

The conclusions I would recommend drawing from this historical survey of Whorf's and Sapir's linguistic theories are as follows:

Significantly, it is at this point that Whorf introduces his idea that recent findings of configurative or Gestalt psychology afford a culture- and language-independent method of investigating how speakers initially perceive the phenomena on which their respective languages base a segmentation of reality. Neither traditional grammar, with its outmoded terminology, nor common sense, even when it is quasi-scientific, would be suitable for achieving this aim. As Whorf expresses it himself: "This cannot be done by describing the situation in terms of subject-predicate, actor-action, attribute-head, etc., for any scientific use of such terms contemplates that they shall have a variable meaning as defined for each language, including the possibility that for some languages their meaning shall be nil. Neither can it be done wholly by familiar terms from the common-sense type to the quasiscientific, as by trying to break up the situation into 'things, objects, actions, substances, entities, events.' Cautious use of such terms may be helpful, perhaps unavoidable, but it must be remembered that in their ranges of meaning they are but the creatures of modern Indo-European languages and their subsidiary jargons, and reflect the typical modes of segmenting experience in these tongues" (Carroll, p. 162).

The tradition was taken up by the American linguist and anthropologist Edward Sapir (1884-1939) and his pupil Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897-1941), and resulted in a view about the relation between language and thought which was widely influential in the middle decades of this century....

Ask A Linguist FAQ The Sapir-Whorf ..

27/10/2017 · The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is the linguistic theory that ..

In this connection, one should perhaps recall another component in Whorf's personal make-up. As is well known, he initially approached the problem of semantics by steeping himself in a two-volume work by the eccentric Biblical philologist Antoine Fabre d'Olivet (1768-1825), who elaborated a far-reaching analysis of the Hebrew triliteral root based on the claim that each letter composing the root conveys a separate meaning (see Carroll, p. 8). Later, Whorf revealed in a letter that "the reason I am interested in every phase of linguistics is that I am primarily interested in something that might be styled 'intra-atomic' linguistics" (Lee, p. 7). At the same time, he could not help but sense that what he was interested in transcended conventional linguistics. At one point, he confesses that what he was after were "relationships uniting hundreds of root words that have always been supposed to be entirely separate and unrelated and indeed are so in the sense of ordinary linguistics" (italics mine) (Lee, p. 3). This kind of statement gives one a vivid sense of the extent to which Whorf himself realized that his point of departure lay outside the intellectual mainstream. He mistrusted not only traditional Indo-European grammatical theory, but also common sense based on scientific or pseudo-scientific reasoning, and even linguistics itself, the field in which he was preparing to immerse himself.

As a hypothesis, this idea provides not only an explanation for the array of languages and how well they convey warm-versus-cool but also for why languages acquire new color words in a predictable order: usefulness. The colors that are more a part of daily life enter the lexicon sooner. That’s a very different way of thinking about color than Sapir-Whorf, or anthropologically, or neurophysiologically.

27/09/1991 · LINGUIST List > Ask A Linguist > Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis ..
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  • 15/01/2018 · Define Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

    does the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis*) ..

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    Sapir-Whorf Flashcards | Quizlet

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23/03/2015 · The Sapir Whorf Hypothesis

Studies about relationship between language and culture and between language and thought have a long history and have placed a much conferred proposal to modern linguistic: the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis....

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis and Social Decentering? | …

To what extent does language influence how we think and how we perceive the social and physicalworlds? The famous but controversialSapir-Whorf hypothesis, named after two linguistic anthropologists, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, argues thatpeople cannot easily understand concepts and objects unless their language contains words for theseitems (Whorf, 1956).[]Language thus influences how we understand the world around us. For example, people in a countrysuch as the United States that has many terms for different types of kisses (e.g. buss, peck,smack, smooch, and soul) are better able to appreciate these different types than people in acountry such as Japan, which, as we saw earlier, only fairly recently developed the wordkissufor kiss.

some of the flavor of what Sapir and Whorf meant by their hypothesis.

But the time-honored notion that the parts of speech had semantic properties lingered on, but in a different form. In his monograph Language, Sapir suggested that the classification of words into parts of speech corresponds to a crude classification of sensory experience. When we use a noun to refer to some element of subjective experience we are thereby representing it as a thing, no matter whether it is in fact a thing. "We speak of the height of a building or the fall of an apple quite as though these ideas were parallel to the roof of a building or the skin of an apple, forgetting that the nouns (height, fall) have not ceased to indicate a quality and an act when we have made them speak with the accent of mere objects." According to Sapir, a naive speaker of English is deceived by the structure of his language into imagining that something similar is conveyed by the two expressions the height of a building and the roof of a building. Sapir went on to suggest that there is no inherent reason why any idea could not be referred to by any part of speech. When, for example, an attribute such as red is in fact referred to in some language by means of an adjective, this does not reflect the universal fact that adjectives are by nature words designed to designate attributes, but merely the fact that the structure of that particular language compels the speaker to represent the notion of red as an attribute. In some other language the grammatical structure might be different, and the concept of red might have to be represented by something other than an adjective. As Sapir himself put the matter: "Just as there are languages that make verbs of the great mass of adjectives, so there are others that make nouns of them."

statement called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, one ..

The use of racist language also illustrates the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. An old saying goes,âSticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That may be true intheory but not in reality. Names can hurt, especially names that are racial slurs, which AfricanAmericans growing up before the era of the civil rights movement routinely heard. According to theSapir-Whorf hypothesis, the use of these words would have affected how whites perceived AfricanAmericans. More generally, the use of racist terms may reinforce racial prejudice and racialstereotypes.

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