Presentation on theme: "What we know about linguistic relativity so far Linguistics 5430 Spring 2007."— Presentation transcript:
What we know about linguistic relativity so far Linguistics 5430 Spring 2007
Whorf’s statement of the hypothesis “Every language is a vast pattern system, different from others, in which are culturally ordained the forms and categories by which the personality not only communicates, but also analyzes nature, notices or neglects types of relationships and phenomena, channels his reasoning, and builds the house of his consciousness.” —Whorf (1956: 252)
What are the components of Whorf’s model? Concepts Culture/worldview Language Behavior Consciousness The world
Concepts The concepts are basic ones: –Space: the location of an entity with respect to a reference point. –Time: location of a situation relative to the time at which it is talked about, and to other situations –Events and states –Matter: the difference between entities with internal structure and outer boundaries and those with unclear boundaries and no internal structure. Theorists have generally neglected internal experience: emotion, thought, understanding.
Culture The causal connection between language and culture is much less clear than that between language and cognition/behavior. What is a ‘speech community’? (UK and US?) Whorf never says that culture determines the shape of the grammar or the vocabulary. Nor does he say that the grammar or vocabulary influences the culture. He does observe, e.g., that the TIME IS A RESOURCE metaphor is a product of industrialization.
Language Whorf-lite focuses on vocabulary differences. But theorists mostly ignore them, with the exception of basic color words. They focus on obligatory and automatic parts of language: grammatical words and constructions. “An utterance is multiply determined by what I have seen or experienced, my communicative purpose in telling you about it, and the distinctions that are embodied in the grammar.” (Slobin, p. 75)
Behavior What aspects of an image does my language lead me to attend to? How will the categories of my language affect the way in which I sort objects? How will the categories of my language affect the distinctions I can perceive, e.g., on the color spectrum?
The World We often talk about a linguistic system ‘carving up reality’. This implies that languages differ only with respect to the ways in which they describe physical reality. But language is also used to express concepts that humans create—concepts that might only exist within a single speech community. Further, some concepts may be exclusively metaphorically based.
Thinking for speaking The obligatory grammatical categories of a language determine what aspects of experience we attend to when we are formulating an utterance. Do English speakers attend to temporal overlap in the same way that French speakers do? –English: Marge turned around. Harry was ecstatic. –French: Margot s’est retournée. Harry était en extase. (imperfective) Harry a été en extase. (perfective)