Sapir Whorf hypothesis


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Sapir Whorf hypothesis

  1. 1. Sapir-Whorf HypothesisAhmet Mesut AteşMarch 27, 2013Applied LinguisticsKaradeniz Technical University
  2. 2. Mould and Cloak TheoriesWithin linguistic theory, two extreme positionsconcerning the relationship between language andthought are commonly referred to as mould theories’and cloak theories.Mould theories represent language as a mould interms of which thought categories are cast.Cloak theories represent the view that language is acloak conforming to the customary categories ofthought of its speakers . Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  3. 3. The Sapir-Whorf HypothesisThe Sapir-Whorf theory, named after the American linguists EdwardSapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, is a mould theory of language.Sapir (1929)Human beings do not live in the soceity alone. Language of the societypredispose certain choices of interpretation about how we view theworld.Whorf (1930s)We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. Wecategorise objects in the scheme laid by the language and if we do notsubscribe to these classification we cannot talk or communicate. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  4. 4. The Sapir-Whorf HypothesisThe Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis consists of two associated principle: 1. Linguistic Determinism 2. Linguistic RelativityLinguistic Determinism: Language may determine our thinkingpatterns, the way we view and think about the world. LinguisticDeterminism is also called «strong determinism»Linguistic Relativity: the less similar the languages more diversetheir conceptualization of the world; different languages viewthe worl differently. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  5. 5. Whorfian Perspective vs UniversalismThe Whorfian perspective is that translation between onelanguage and another is at the very least, problematic, andsometimes impossible. According to the Whorfianstance, content is bound up with linguistic form, and the use ofthe medium contributes to shaping the meaning: it is impossibleto mean the same thing in two (or more) different ways.The Whorfian perspective is in strong contrast to the extremeuniversalism of those who adopt the cloak theory. Universalistsargue that we can say whatever we want to say in anylanguage, and that whatever we say in one language can alwaysbe translated into another: Even totally different languages arenot untranslatable. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  6. 6. Whorfian Perspective vs UniversalismIn the context of the written word, the untranslatability claim isgenerally regarded as strongest in the arts and weakest in thecase of formal scientific papers (although rhetorical studies haveincreasingly blurred any clear distinctions). And within theliterary domain, untranslatability was favoured by Romanticliterary theorists, for whom the connotative, emotional orpersonal meanings of words were crucial. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  7. 7. Moderate WhorfianismModerate Whorfianism differs from determinist Whorfianism inthese ways:• Patterns of thinking can be influenced rather than determined,• Language influences the way we see the world and it is influenced by that also,• Any influence should be ascribed to the variety in a language rather than the language itself (sociolect*),• Influence can be seen on the social context but not in purely linguistic form.Sociolect: the language used primarily by members of a articularsocial group. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  8. 8. Advantages of Sapir-Whorf HypothesisAdvantages* of Linguistics Determinism: – Language does exert great influence on patterns of thinking and therefore on culture – Language may reinforce certain ideas and push them into attentionAdvantages of Linguistic Relativity: – There can be differences in the semantic associations of concepts – Encoding of life experience in language is not exclusively accesible to everyone but only to members of that certain social group – Linguistic structure doesn’t constrain what people think but only influence what they routinely think – Language reflects cultural preoccupations«Advantage» means in this context generally accepted or proved part ofSWH. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  9. 9. Disadvantages of Sapir-Whorf HypothesisWhorf claimed (1940): if, between two different languages, one has many words for closely related objects while other has relatively limited vocabulary users of L1 should have noted perceptually characteristics of the objects. Eskimo lang. English snow Countless words describing Relatively limited shape, location and form vocabularyBUT this doesn’t prove English speaking people do not have theability to distinguis characteristics. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  10. 10. Disadvantages of Sapir-Whorf HypothesisSapir-Whorf hypothesis asserts that each language has a uniquesystem and thus cross-cultural undertanding is impossible.BUT we have: – Perceptional universsals (different languages may express the same thought) – Cultural universal (each language has taboos, implements, slang) – Features to distinguish family and relatives (by seniority, biological bond or sex) – Languages may exhibit a shared attitude towards one thing (respect for elderly, objects of fear, concept of blasphemy) Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  11. 11. Disadvantages of Sapir-Whorf HypothesisSapir-Whorf hypothesis is self-conflicting. It claims that«language determines thought» but also «there is no limits todiversity of languages».If there is no limit to diversity language cannot determinethought to a great extent to be called «determination» ratherthan «influence».AND many scholars indicate that human thought is universal. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  12. 12. Disadvantages of Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis• From a historical stand pint it SHOULD be society and culture that determine language because social enviroment exert great influence upon percptual ability. BUT decise factor is NOT the language.• If language determines the world view there would be NO class conscious because every member of the society would view the world same and think by the same thinking patterns. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  13. 13. Further application of SWHThere are many studies on Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis but amajority of these studies focus on these main problems:• Perception of time continuity in languages – Dividing time periodically (i.e. English) – Not dividing (i.e. Indonesian) – Dividing time by source of knowledge (i.e. Turkish)• Perception of snow – Eskimo languages vs English• Perception of colours – Universal colours vs local colours• Counting systems Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  14. 14. Further application of SWHA study (Berlin & Kay) on colour perception which claimed that aregular, universal system of colour categorisation existed acrossthe world’s languages: while the number of names of discretecolours varies across languages, these are based on a set of focalcolours. Furthermore, research done on a stone-age culturalgroup in Indonesia, the Dani, by Rosch Heider (1972) suggestedthat members of the group, despite only having two colourcategories, perceived colours in much the same way as Englishspeakers.Of course not all languages follow the predetermined order andtoo little is known about a great number of the world’slanguages to be able to formulate universally valid hypotheses Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş
  15. 15. ReferencesChandler, D. (1994). The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. 27.03.2013,, M. S. (2010). Can the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis save the planet? Lessons from cross-cultural psychology for critical language policy. Current Issues in Language Planning, 11:4, 331-340.LIANG, H. (2011). The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis and Foreign Language Teaching and Learning. US-China Foreign Language, 9, 569-574. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Ahmet Mesut Ateş