Definition and Examples of the 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.).

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It is as if Sapir and Whorf believed that all languages were equally irrational, but some were more irrational than others, namely our own much-vaunted Indo-European languages. That this is also a form of anti-traditionalism is too obvious to need emphasizing. Sapir and Whorf saw themselves in the role of liberators freeing linguists from a prejudice in favor of Indo-European languages and the kind of grammatical theory which had grown up to describe them. But they were liberators, not anarchists. Their professed relativism was in reality only skin-deep.

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: Examples and Definition - …

The conclusions I would recommend drawing from this historical survey of Whorf's and Sapir's linguistic theories are as follows:
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Thus Whorf was not really proposing a new principle of relativity. But more than this, he actually had a perfectly definite notion of rationality and universal grammar. Once more a glance at Sapir's monograph Language will show us what to look for. In his discussion of grammatical concepts in chapter 5 of that book he pointed out the following: "In English we have made up our minds that all action must be conceived of in reference to three standard times. If, therefore, we desire to state a proposition that is as true tomorrow as it was yesterday, we have to pretend [emphasis mine] that the present moment may be elongated fore and aft so as to take in all eternity." To this he adds in a footnote: "There are many 'primitive' languages that are more philosophical and distinguish between a true 'present' and a 'customary' or 'general' tense." What Sapir is proposing here is that there is a standard of rationality (or philosophicalness) against which many primitive languages make a better showing than Indo-European languages. Put another way, our notion that Indo-European languages are the embodiment of rationality is a vain conceit: in reality they are in many respects less rational, less philosophical than many non-Indo-European languages.

Reading after Whorf's "Language, Mind and Reality" 04 ..

Now an examination of Whorf's article entitled "Grammatical Categories" will show that he adopted Sapir's notion of word-class meaning. Thus he states: "Certain semantic and grammatical properties are assured in the word by selecting it from a certain class of fixed membership not coterminous with the whole vocabulary." In other words, whenever a speaker selects a word from a certain class he thereby guarantees not only certain grammatical properties, but also certain semantic properties. Thus in selecting the word Helen from the class of feminine proper nouns in the example quoted above the speaker guarantees that the meaning 'female' is conveyed.

Sapir Whorf Essay - 316 Words - StudyMode

Few people these days believe something as strong as the strongest version of the Sapir-Whorf thesis – that our experiences are largely determined by the language we speak. But there are many neo-Whorfians doing experimental work to show that the language one speaks has some measurable effect on one’s experience of the world. For example, neo-Whorfian psychologist Lera Boroditsky has run dozens of experiments that seem to point to the conclusion that many different aspects of thought are in fact influenced by language. In one case, Boroditsky and colleagues ran a series of experiments testing whether the grammatical gender associated with a noun had an effect on how people perceive the object named by the noun. Unlike English, many languages have grammatical genders associated with nouns, the most common being feminine and masculine. These genders can manifest themselves in grammatical rules like which article is correct to use with a noun, agreement of adjectives or verbs and more.