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Sapir-Whorf hypothesis | Define Sapir-Whorf hypothesis …

The idea, also called linguistic relativism, is that language is not just a list of words and grammar structures that give us rules for how to express our ideas properly, but that language essentially defines how we see things, and influences our cognitive processes. Linguistic relativism, also known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, has been further divided into two versions, strong and weak, over time. Essentially, while the strong version argues that language determines cognition and thought, the weak version argues only that language influences cognition and thought. Linguists today are in general agreement with the weak version, and this has influenced several linguistic experiments, a few of which will be discussed below. The strong version of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, however, has fallen largely into disuse.

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

The time-less people were the Hopi, a Native American tribe who live in north-eastern Arizona. Whorf claimed that they didn't have any words for time – no direct translation for the noun time itself, no grammatical constructions indicating the past or future – and therefore could not conceive of it. They experienced reality in a fundamentally different way. The idea fascinated people: Whorf's work became popular "knowledge" but his credibility waned from the 60s onward. By the mid-80s, linguist Ekkehart Milotki had published two enormous books in two languages discrediting the "time-less Hopi" idea.

Whorfian hypothesis | Define Whorfian ..

Now, pronouncements like those made by Whorf and my airport companions make me instantly suspicious. If Whorf's theory sounds a little odd to you, a little politically incorrect, perhaps you're an anxious liberal like me; if you subscribe to it wholesale (sometimes called the "strong" version of the hypothesis), you are consigning people from different speaking communities to totally different inner lives. Which sounds, well, racist. The idea that people who speak some particular language are incapable of certain kinds of thought is instinctively distasteful.

From the very first, scientific testing of Whorf's hypothesis seemed to prove him wrong. His idea that people cannot conceive of realities for which they have no words just doesn't make sense: how would we ever learn anything if that were true? We aren't born with words for everything that we understand.

Whorfian hypothesis definition, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. See more.

Whorf was of a different time: his research came out of older traditions of thinking about language that have lost cultural traction. In the 18th and 19th centuries, writers such as Wilhelm von Humboldt believed that a culture's language encapsulated its identity, to the extent that different languages represented totally distinct worldviews. The late 19th century was the heyday for the idea that white culture was objectively the best, so you can see how this kind of theory really caught on.

However, if you see Whorf as both coming out of but also very different from that kind of thought, he turns out to be a real progressive. As part of a wider American group of thinkers (alongside anthropologist Franz Boas and others) in the early 20th century, Whorf opposed the idea of biological difference between peoples. In emphasising cultural relativism, however, they emphasised the conditioned differences between them. Nowadays, it is hard to read any emphasis on human difference without a little side-eye – and quite right, too.

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…now often known as the Whorfian (or Sapir-Whorf) hypothesis

Whorf's hypothesis is one of those slices of 20th-century thought that embedded itself right away in the culture and then underwent an interesting trajectory, falling in and out of academic favour ever since. Ever heard the one about the people who have "no concept of time"? Inuit words for snow? All Whorf.

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis - YouTube

As linguists such as Noam Chomsky began to redefine what it meant to study human language, linguistics generally swung from Whorf-style relativist positions to a more universalist approach, in which scholars tried to discover the general principles of language. Since the 80s, however, investigations into linguistic relativity have flourished anew, but in a much more careful, subtle way.

Sapir Whorf Hypothesis - WikiWikiWeb

But although morphemic analysis functioned reasonably well on the word level, for example in the study of morphological systems, it was not able to account satisfactorily for the meanings of whole sentences. This is because sentences convey meanings for which none of the constituent morphemes can be made responsible. To take one of Whorf's own examples, the English sentence My baby's name is Helen conveys among other things that the baby in question is female. But the meaning 'female' receives no specific morphemic expression.

A Brief Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis - Homework Help

There were also other types of definitions which do not concern us at this point. Suffice it to say that in Whorf's day it had become customary for professional linguists to criticize the semantic definitions of the parts of speech. I refer you to the writings of Henry Sweet, Hermann Paul, Otto Jespersen, and of course Leonard Bloomfield.

A Reconsideration of Whorf's 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."

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