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Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897 1941 ) Chemical engineer (MIT), fire insurance inspector, amateur linguist Religion to texts and language to Mayan, anthropology,

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Presentation on theme: "Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897 1941 ) Chemical engineer (MIT), fire insurance inspector, amateur linguist Religion to texts and language to Mayan, anthropology,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Benjamin Lee Whorf ( ) Chemical engineer (MIT), fire insurance inspector, amateur linguist Religion to texts and language to Mayan, anthropology, Hopi via Sapir

2 Edward Sapir ( ) German and Indo-European philology to descriptive Native American linguistics to psychological anthropology

3 Albert Einstein ( ) Theory of Specific Relativity Field Theory Overthrough of classical mechanics

4 A field theory of mind 'In the new field language it is the description of the field between the two charges, and not the charges themselves, which is essential for an understanding of their action. (Einstein & Infeld 1938:151) Mind is a system of neurological linkages and rapport sustaied by physiological structures and processes Minds as intermeshing or resisting one another. A Manifestation of social or universal mind activity

5 Sapir - points in the pattern Language consists of a peculiar symbolic relationphysiologically an aribitrary onebetween all possible elements of consciousnbess on the one hand and certain selected elements localized in the auditory, motor, and other cerebral and vernous tracts on the other. … language [is] a fully formed functional system within mans psychic or spiritual constitution. P10 Language

6 An American Indian Model of the Universe Hopi Time is not A smooth flowing continuum In which everything proceeds at an equal rate Out of a future Through a present into a past In our time The observer Is being carried In the stream of duration Continuously awway from A past And into a future Hopi time disappears Hopi space is altered New concepts and abstractions Flow into the picture

7 The Hopi Universe presents Two grand cosmic forms We may call them Manifested And Manifesting One is objective Manifested Past And present All that Is Or has been Accessile To the senses The other is subjective Manifesting Future Appearance And Existence Within and behind All the forms And appearances Of nature In the heart Of nature Mental In the heart Of animals Plants Things Thought Thinking itself Out from an inner realm It is Thought And Heart Manifesting

8 It is in A dynamic State Yet not A state Of motion Thought and heart Are already with us IN a vital And mental Form They are Intellection And Emotion The striving of purposeful desire Intelligent in character Toward manifestation A manifestation Which is much resisted And delayed But in some form Or other Is inevitable It is the realm Of expectancy Of desire and purpose Of vitalizing life Of effieicent causes Of thought Thinking itself Out From and inner Realm

9 Cryptotypes Key part of theory of psycholinguistic patterning Part of a field theory of mind and language Investigating the systematicity - the local categories - of a language Language: Plan and Conception of Arrangement

10 Cryptotypes "... a dimly felt relation of similarity between the [Hopi] verb usages in each group having to do with some inobvious facet of their meaning, and therefore itself a meaning, but one so nearly at or below the threshold of conscious thinking that it connot be put into words by the user and eludes translation. To isolate, characterize, and understand the operation of these dimly flet, barely conscious (or even unconscious) meanings is the object of my further analysis. Such an elusuive, hidden, but functionally important meaning I call a CRYPTOTYPE. (pp ).

11 Cryptotypes compare Vygotsky 1986[1934]:249-- "Inner speech is to a large extent thinking in pure meanings. It is a dynamic, shifting, unstable think, fluttering between word and thought, the two more or less stable, more less firmly delineated components of verbal thought." and Whorf LTR:81-- "... its logic becomes a semantic associate of what unity of which the configurative aspect is a bundle of non-motor linkages mooring the whole fleet of words to their common reactance."

12 Shifting terms Cryptotype and phenotype - Groups of words Grammatical meanings Semantic categories

13 Holism and Holography Language is embedded in a field of dicourse Language is a part of culture –Total sum of way of being Any single manifestation implicates the entire system Compare with Boas Principles of Ethnological Classification

14 Contradiction? Whorf says that there is no correlation between language and culture (p. 139), but on pages he connects behavioral features to linguistic categories. Is this a contradiction?

15 Contradiction - No P 139: I should be the last to pretend that there is anything so definite as a correlation between culture and language, and especially between ethnological rubrics such as agriculture, hunting, etc., and linguistic ones like inflected, synthetic, or isolating.

16 Contradiction - No P 148-9: … people act about situations in ways which are like the ways they talk about them. The covert categories of language, grammar, are associated with unconscious, cultural assumptions we make about the world, what is natural, how it works.

17 Two definitions of Language Saussurian (structuralist system) Sapirean (languaculture)

18 Languages in cultures Language as form: Linguistic elements can be studied as contrasting and complementary forms. Examination of their arrangement, rules for combination, generating surface structure. (Bloomfield, Chomsky) Language as action: People say things and mean something. They do things with words. Language is more than communication, it is also understanding the world, creating the world. (Sapir, Whorf, Hymes)

19 Misinterpreting Whorfs ideas Chicago Language in Culture Conference Quick to trivalize the man/thinker Overplayed his religion (misread Carrolls biography?) Stuart Chases Foreword (vi): Whorf as I read him makes two cardinal hypotheses: First, that all higher levels of thinking are dependendent on language. Second, that the structure of the language on habitually uses influences the manner in which one understands his environment. The picture of the universe shifts from tongue to tongue.

20 Sapir on Language & thought Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the real world is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group. No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached.

21 Wilhelm von Humboldt ( ) Language as Weltanschaung (worldview) Each tongue draws a circle about the people to whom it belongs, and it is possible to leave this circle only by simultaneously entering that of another people. but one always caries over into a foreign tongue to a greater or lesser degree ones own cosmic viewpoint indeed ones personal linguistic pattern.

22 Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis? They never co-authored anything, although Whorf does refer explicitly to his teacher. There is no statement of a hypothesis. Term is used by Stuart Chase in his foreword ( Whorf frames his statements as empirical conclusions. Whorfs principle of linguistic relativity

23 Linguistic Relativity The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our mindsand this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. (213) – B. L. Whorf

24 SAE Objectification John Locke ( ) An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Idea = the object of the understanding when a man thinks All ideas come from sensation or reflection Most important simple idea is solidity

25 Form and Content SAE dualities - body and soul The form (shape, structure, appearance) can be separated from the content (material, essence, nature) of the thing. Hopi people dont make a necessary distinction between form and content, dont rely on objects in space as a primary metaphor for time, person, other qualities

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