Presentation on theme: "The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis Sampson (1980) Elena Galkina."— Presentation transcript:
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis Sampson (1980) Elena Galkina
Idea Man’s language molds his perception of reality The world a man inhabits is a linguistic construct
Sapir Sapir studied languages of the Pacific coast of North America; his work was comparable to Descriptivism but differed from Behaviorism; patterns revealed by linguistic analysis were patterns in speakers’ minds. Linguistic ‘drift’ – a long-term tendency for a language to modify itself in some particular direction, as the coming and going of waves on a beach masks a steady long-term tidal movement.
Whorf Whorf - detailed analysis of certain American Indian languages The worldview is molded by language Analysis of reports of how fires had started – not only physical factors are relevant but also language Main focus on Hopi, a language of Arizona
Conclusions based on Hopi analysis Only certain grammatical categories marked overtly in languages (ex., tense in finite English verbs) Covert categories/cryptotypes (ex., the names of countries and towns) Covert categories are more representative of the world- view of its speakers Animate/inanimate in Hopi (clouds) Sex category ‘Standard Average European’ “Time, velocity and matter are not essential to the construction of a consistent picture of the universe” ‘He runs fast’/ ‘He very runs’
Max Black’s objection to Hopi’s time concept Ludwig Wittgenstein – a view similar to Whorf but w/out his knowledge of exotic languages Interdependence of world-view and language Ask the speakers to see if this is correct! While Black attacks Whorf’s ‘hypothesis’ for untestability he strongly supports Wittgenstein’s untestable philosophy More critisism: More critisism: Whorf’s inability to allow for the radical changes of world-view within a given linguistic community. The history of science has been a history of repeated radical changes of world-view, almost all of which occurred within the Standard Average European linguistic framework.
Language of a community ↔ thought of individual members How individual influences language? Sapir – individuals being ‘at the mercy of’ their language; ‘tyrannical hold’ over their mind Whorf – speakers are parties to an ‘absolutely obligatory’ agreement to conceptualize the world in a certain way
von den Steinen and L évy- Bruhl Translating Bororó thought-patterns of all primitive people are similar to thought-patterns of civilized men; ‘pre-logical’ The distinction between Bororó and English is not a matter of logic but of beliefs about abstract matters of fact – each community holds certain sophisticated theories which are only very indirectly connected with observable reality, and these theories cannot be merely translated but must be taught to members of other communities. The deeper and more abstract are the aspects of a ‘world-view’ the more compelling the argument that differences in world-view result form misinterpretation of language.
Any support? ‘Trivial’ hypothesis Plausible in its triviality – differences in the categorization in various languages are based on concrete, observable phenomena; the concepts are familiar to many people Colors – Berlin & Kay (1969) “ Basic Color Terms” – all human languages have common pattern which is determined by psychological structuring innate in humans Agreement – there is a relationship between the nature of language and various languages speakers’ world- view BUT language structures and their world-views are diverse ‘Universal’ colors categorization is based on similar patterns across languages – unreliable data from 78 languages, examined only 20
Conclusion We categorize based on our language We allow our language to preempt the decisions we make We are not “helpless prisoners” of our language