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An Introduction to an introduction to the analysis of the spir whorf hypothesis the Study of Speech resulting in the so called Sapir-Whorf hypothesis or. Naujoji g. His research appeared to show that speakers of different kinds of language were, as a result of those language differences, cognitively different from one another.
Sapir whorf hypothesis language gender and society
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.
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 mids, linguist Ekkehart Milotki had published two enormous books in two languages discrediting the "time-less Hopi" idea.
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.
Relatively speaking: do our words influence how we think? | Education | The Guardian
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. 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. The study of the relationship between language and colour perception is one of the most striking areas of this research, not least because human beings are all of the same species and thus see with the same eyes — differences in defining colour must be something else.
In , Brent Berlin and Paul Kay published their book, Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution, in which they argued that there were rules for how all people label colours: there are 11 basic colour categories and if there are fewer, they are added in a particular order black and white, then black, white, and red, then black, white, red, and green or yellow.