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Language, thought and culture

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The Sapir_Whorf hypothesis: Linguistic relativity and linguistic determinism

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Language, thought and culture

  1. 1. LANGUAGE, THOUGHT AND CULTURE. A HUNDRED YEARS OF LINGUISTIC RELATIVITY
  2. 2. FRANZ BOAS He was an American anthropologist . He was considered the "Father of American Anthropology“
  3. 3. HIS RESEARCH WORK Franz Boas main research involved disproving some racist assertions about the existence of so-called “primitive” languages , races and cultures.
  4. 4. Franz Boas was an anthropologist whose main work was devoted to prove the inexistence of some racist interpretations regarding language, thought and culture. He affirmed that all human beings were essentially equal.
  5. 5. He claimed that language might facilitate certain type of thinking and would provide elements to understand some unconscious patterns of culture and thought, but it would not prevent people from developing certain advanced ways of thinking.
  6. 6. EDWARD SAPIR He was an American anthropologist-linguist, who is considered one of the most important figures in the early development of the discipline of linguistics. He was a student of Boas and he worked upon his teacher’s theories, but he also developed his own theories.
  7. 7. • Sapir pointed out a strong influence of language on thought and culture. • “Grammatical categories result in the tyrannical hold that linguistic form has upon our orientation of the world”.
  8. 8. SAPIR’S QUOTES: • “Humans are at the “mercy "of the language they speak” • “No two languages are exactly the same in the way they provide speakers with unconscious categories”. • “Language is a guide to social reality.”
  9. 9. BENJAMIN LEE WHORF Whorf was born in the United States. He was a student of Edward Sapir and he developed the insight of his two predecessors: Boas and Sapir.
  10. 10. During his entire life Whorf was a chemical engineer by profession, but as a young man he took up an interest in linguistics. At first this interest drew him to the study of Biblical Hebrew, but he quickly went on to study the indigenous languages of Mesoamerica on his own. Professional scholars were impressed by his work and in 1930 he received a grant to study in Mexico; on his return home he presented several influential papers on the language at linguistics conferences. This led him to begin studying linguistics with Edward Sapir at Yale University while he still continued working as an engineer at the Hartford Fire Insurance Company.
  11. 11. THE SAPIR-WHORF HYPOTHESIS Even though Boas, Sapir and Whorf wrote about the relationship among language, Thought and Culture, they never developed a theory or hypothesis together.
  12. 12. • Most of the linguistic anthropologists believe that the language you speak may predispose you to think in a certain way or to engage in certain cultural practices or beliefs. • The relation among language – thought - culture is mutually influential and flexible.
  13. 13. Some linguistic anthropologists, like Hill and Mannheim say that the relationship among language , thought and culture is multidirectional and could be conceived as an axiom rather a than an empirically testable hypothesis.
  14. 14. The supporters of the axiom point of view think that : Everything is linguistically mediated so it is impossible to separate something called language from the two “non-linguistic” entities called thought and culture.
  15. 15. TWO VERSIONS OF THE HYPOTHESIS

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