Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis | i love english language
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is the linguistic theory that the semantic on ideas about the connections between languages and thought. The hypothesis of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers' world view or cognition. Also known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is . Sapir was explicit that the connections between language and culture were neither thoroughgoing nor particularly deep, if they. The Theory of Linguistic Relativity holds that: one's language shapes one's view of reality. The first part, linguistic determinism, refers to the concept that what is said, has The experiment showed clearly the relationship between deaf children The second division of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is linguistic relativism.
Recent studies have shown that colour perception is particularly prone to linguistic relativity effects when processed in the left brain hemisphere, suggesting that this brain half relies more on language than the right one.
Current research is focused on exploring the ways in which language influences thought and determining to what extent. The idea that language and thought are intertwined goes back to the classical civilizations, but in the history of European philosophy the relation was not seen as fundamental. Augustine for example held the view that language was merely labels applied to already existing concepts. For Immanuel Kantlanguage was but one of several tools used by humans to experience the world.
Language and Culture and Sapir- Whorf Hypothesis Flashcards Preview
Von Humboldt argued that languages with an inflectional morphological typesuch as German, English and the other Indo-European languages were the most perfect languages and that accordingly this explained the dominance of their speakers over the speakers of less perfect languages.
The German scientist Wilhelm von Humboldt declared in The diversity of languages is not a diversity of signs and sounds but a diversity of views of the world. The American linguist William Dwight Whitney for example actively strove to eradicate the native American languages arguing that their speakers were savages and would be better off abandoning their languages and learning English and adopting a civilized way of life.
In contrast to Humboldt, Boas always stressed the equal worth of all cultures and languages, and argued that there was no such thing as primitive languages, but that all languages were capable of expressing the same content albeit by widely differing means. Boas saw language as an inseparable part of culture and he was among the first to require of ethnographers to learn the native language of the culture being studied, and to document verbal culture such as myths and legends in the original language.
According to Franz Boas: It does not seem likely […] that there is any direct relation between the culture of a tribe and the language they speak, except in so far as the form of the language will be moulded by the state of the culture, but not in so far as a certain state of the culture is conditioned by the morphological traits of the language.
In his writings he espoused the viewpoint that because of the staggering differences in the grammatical systems of languages no two languages were ever similar enough to allow for perfect translation between them. Sapir also thought because language represented reality differently, it followed that the speakers of different languages would perceive reality differently.
According to Edward Sapir: The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached. While Sapir never made a point of studying how languages affected the thought processes of their speakers the notion of linguistic relativity lay inherent in his basic understanding of language, and it would be taken up by his student Benjamin Lee Whorf.
Instead of merely assuming that language influences the thought and behavior of its speakers after Humboldt and Sapir he looked at Native American languages and attempted to account for the ways in which differences in grammatical systems and language use affected the way their speakers perceived the world. However, his not having a degree in linguistics cannot be taken to mean that he was linguistically incompetent.
We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native language. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscope flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds—and this means largely by the linguistic systems of our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way—an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language […] all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated.
These examples of polysemy served the double purpose of showing that indigenous languages sometimes made more fine grained semantic distinctions than European languages and that direct translation between two languages, even of seemingly basic concepts like snow or water, is not always possible. Another example in which Whorf attempted to show that language use affects behavior came from his experience in his day job as a chemical engineer working for an insurance company as a fire inspector .
On inspecting a chemical plant he once observed that the plant had two storage rooms for gasoline barrels, one for the full barrels and one for the empty ones. He further noticed that while no employees smoked cigarettes in the room for full barrels no-one minded smoking in the room with empty barrels, although this was potentially much more dangerous due to the highly flammable vapors that still existed in the barrels.
This example was later criticized by Lenneberg  as not actually demonstrating the causality between the use of the word empty and the action of smoking, but instead being an example of circular reasoning. Steven Pinker in The Language Instinct ridiculed this example, claiming that this was a failing of human sight rather than language.
He proposed that this view of time was fundamental in all aspects of Hopi culture and explained certain Hopi behavioral patterns. Whorf died in at age 44 and left behind him a number of unpublished papers. His line of thought was continued by linguists and anthropologists such as Harry Hoijer and Dorothy D. Lee who both continued investigations into the effect of language on habitual thought, and George L.
In psychologist Eric Lenneberg published a detailed criticism of the line of thought that had been fundamental for Sapir and Whorf. He did not address the fact that Whorf was not principally concerned with translatability, but rather with how the habitual use of language influences habitual behavior.
Together with his colleague, Roger BrownLenneberg proposed that in order to prove such a causality one would have to be able to directly correlate linguistic phenomena with behavior. They took up the task of proving or disproving the existence of linguistic relativity experimentally and published their findings in Structural differences between language systems will, in general, be paralleled by nonlinguistic cognitive differences, of an unspecified sort, in the native speakers of the language.
They designed a number of experiments involving the codification of colors. In their first experiment, they investigated whether it was easier for speakers of English to remember color shades for which they had a specific name than to remember colors that were not as easily definable by words.
This allowed them to correlate the linguistic categorization directly to a non-linguistic task, that of recognizing and remembering colors. In a later experiment, speakers of two languages that categorize colors differently English and Zuni were asked to perform tasks of color recognition.
In this way, it could be determined whether the differing color categories of the two speakers would determine their ability to recognize nuances within color categories. Lenneberg was also one of the first cognitive scientists to begin development of the Universalist theory of language which was finally formulated by Noam Chomsky in the form of Universal Grammareffectively arguing that all languages share the same underlying structure.
The Chomskyan school also holds the belief that linguistic structures are largely innate and that what are perceived as differences between specific languages — the knowledge acquired by learning a language — are merely surface phenomena and do not affect cognitive processes that are universal to all human beings. This theory became the dominant paradigm in American linguistics from the s through the s and the notion of linguistic relativity fell out of favor and became even the object of ridicule.
Berlin and Kay studied color terminology formation in languages and showed clear universal trends in color naming. For example, they found that even though languages have different color terminologies, they generally recognize certain hues as more focal than others. They showed that in languages with few color terms, it is predictable from the number of terms which hues are chosen as focal colors, for example, languages with only three color terms always have the focal colors black, white and red.
Linguistic relativity - Wikipedia
For more information regarding the universalism and relativism of color terms, see Universalism and relativism of color terminology. Other universalist researchers dedicated themselves to dispelling other notions of linguistic relativity, often attacking specific points and examples given by Whorf. Today many followers of the universalist school of thought still oppose the idea of linguistic relativity.
But to restrict thinking to the patterns merely of English […] is to lose a power of thought which, once lost, can never be regained.
In the late s and early s, advances in cognitive psychology and cognitive linguistics renewed interest in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. He argued that language is often used metaphorically and that different languages use different cultural metaphors that reveal something about how speakers of that language think. For example, English employs metaphors likening time with money, whereas other languages may not talk about time in that fashion.
Other linguistic metaphors may be common to most languages because they are based on general human experience, for example, metaphors likening up with good and bad with down. In his book Women, Fire and Dangerous things: He concluded that the debate on linguistic relativity had been confused and resultingly fruitless. He identified four parameters on which researchers differed in their opinions about what constitutes linguistic relativity.
One parameter is the degree and depth of linguistic relativity. Some scholars believe that a few examples of superficial differences in language and associated behavior are enough to demonstrate the existence of linguistic relativity, while other contend that only deep differences that permeate the linguistic and cultural system suffice as proof.
A second parameter is whether conceptual systems are to be seen as absolute or whether they can be expanded or exchanged during the life time of a human being. A third parameter is whether translatability is accepted as a proof of similarity or difference between concept systems or whether it is rather the actual habitual use of linguistic expressions that is to be examined. A fourth parameter is whether to view the locus of linguistic relativity as being in the language or in the mind.
The publication of the anthology Rethinking linguistic relativity edited by sociolinguist John J. Gumperz and psycholinguist Stephen C. Levinson marked the entrance to a new period of linguistic relativity studies and a new way of defining the concept that focused on cognitive as well as social aspects of linguistic relativity. In the experiment, deaf children view a doll, which is placed a marble in a box. The children then see the marble removed and placed in a basket after the doll is taken away.
They are later asked where they believe the doll will look for the marble upon returning. Overwhelmingly, the deaf children with deaf parents answer correctly that the doll will look in the box. The deaf children with non-deaf parents answer mostly incorrectly. The experiment showed clearly the relationship between deaf children whose parents have communicated with them through complex sign language and their being able to get the correct answer.
The children, having grown up in an environment with complex language American Sign Language recognized that the doll would probably look to where she had placed the marble. The other children, who had not grown up in a stable linguistic environment their parents not being hearing impaired and thus not being fluent in ASL were not able to see the relationship.
These results lead the experimenter John R. Skoyles to believe that the Sapir-Wharf Hypothesis was correct according to strong determinism Current Interpretation…, p.
The second division of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is linguistic relativism. This part of the hypothesis can be defined: As stated by Sapir himself: This view of cognition can be more simply defined as meaning: Linguistic relativity opens the window to the realization that all languages do not translate to each other. This brings to mind that notion that language is relative, thus the same word can have different meanings for different people and these subjective meanings let rise varying cognitions.
Indeed language does have an affect on thinking and the Sapir-Wharf Hypothesis very pragmatically presents this. The first concept provided within the theory, linguistic determination, makes sense when applied to reality.
In actual thought one does indeed perceive concepts and objects in accordance to the words used to describe them. This showed me that although all of the responses I received had specific names dining table, coffee table, etc. After determining that this portion did indeed make good sense to me I continued my inquiry into the second portion of the theory, linguistic relativity.
Plato held instead that the world consisted of eternal ideas and that language should reflect these ideas as accurately as possible. Augustinefor example, held the view that language was merely labels applied to already existing concepts. This view remained prevalent throughout the Middle Ages.
For Immanuel Kantlanguage was but one of several tools used by humans to experience the world. German Romantic philosophers[ edit ] In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the idea of the existence of different national characters, or "Volksgeister", of different ethnic groups was the moving force behind the German romantics school and the beginning ideologies of ethnic nationalism. As early ashe alludes to something along the lines of linguistic relativity in commenting on a passage in the table of nations in the book of Genesis: This is because there is a correspondence of the language with the intellectual part of man, or with his thought, like that of an effect with its cause.
There is a common genius prevailing among those who are subject to one king, and who consequently are under one constitutional law.How language shapes the way we think - Lera Boroditsky
Germany is divided into more governments than the neighboring kingdoms However, a common genius prevails everywhere among people speaking the same language. The lineaments of their language will thus correspond to the direction of their mentality. Thoughts are produced as a kind of internal dialog using the same grammar as the thinker's native language. Von Humboldt argued that languages with an inflectional morphological typesuch as German, English and the other Indo-European languageswere the most perfect languages and that accordingly this explained the dominance of their speakers over the speakers of less perfect languages.
Wilhelm von Humboldt declared in The diversity of languages is not a diversity of signs and sounds but a diversity of views of the world. American linguist William Dwight Whitneyfor example, actively strove to eradicate Native American languagesarguing that their speakers were savages and would be better off learning English and adopting a "civilized" way of life.
Boas stressed the equal worth of all cultures and languages, that there was no such thing as a primitive language and that all languages were capable of expressing the same content, albeit by widely differing means.
Boas saw language as an inseparable part of culture and he was among the first to require of ethnographers to learn the native language of the culture under study and to document verbal culture such as myths and legends in the original language. It does not seem likely [ He espoused the viewpoint that because of the differences in the grammatical systems of languages no two languages were similar enough to allow for perfect cross-translation.
Sapir also thought because language represented reality differently, it followed that the speakers of different languages would perceive reality differently.
No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached. It is easy to show that language and culture are not intrinsically associated. Totally unrelated languages share in one culture; closely related languages—even a single language—belong to distinct culture spheres. There are many excellent examples in Aboriginal America.
The Athabaskan languages form as clearly unified, as structurally specialized, a group as any that I know of. The speakers of these languages belong to four distinct culture areas The cultural adaptability of the Athabaskan-speaking peoples is in the strangest contrast to the inaccessibility to foreign influences of the languages themselves. A common language cannot indefinitely set the seal on a common culture when the geographical, physical, and economics determinants of the culture are no longer the same throughout the area.
Drawing on influences such as Humboldt and Friedrich Nietzschesome European thinkers developed ideas similar to those of Sapir and Whorf, generally working in isolation from each other. Prominent in Germany from the late s through into the s were the strongly relativist theories of Leo Weisgerber and his key concept of a 'linguistic inter-world', mediating between external reality and the forms of a given language, in ways peculiar to that language.
His work "Thought and Language"  has been compared to Whorf's and taken as mutually supportive evidence of language's influence on cognition.
Benjamin Lee Whorf[ edit ] Main article: Benjamin Lee Whorf More than any linguist, Benjamin Lee Whorf has become associated with what he called the "linguistic relativity principle". Whorf also examined how a scientific account of the world differed from a religious account, which led him to study the original languages of religious scripture and to write several anti- evolutionist pamphlets.
Critics such as Lenneberg, Black and Pinker attribute to Whorf a strong linguistic determinism, while LucySilverstein and Levinson point to Whorf's explicit rejections of determinism, and where he contends that translation and commensuration is possible. Although Whorf lacked an advanced degree in linguistics, his reputation reflects his acquired competence.