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:
1Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897 —1941 )Chemical engineer (MIT), fire insurance inspector, amateur linguistReligion to texts and language to Mayan, anthropology, Hopi via SapirFrom Carroll’s introduction:During periods of his life, his scholarly output was enough to equal that of many a full-time research professor; yet he must have been at the same time spending some eight hours every working day in his business pursuits. Although several offers of academic or scholarly research positions were made to him during the latter years of his life, he consistently refused them, saying that his business situation afforded him a more comfortable living and a freer opportunity to develop his intellectual interests in his own way.He was first-class in his job. Impressed customers, attracted more business, increased safety (reducing claims). Hartford gave him several extended leaves to do fieldwork in SW and Mexico.First to decipher Mayan hieroglyphics
2Edward Sapir (1884 —1939 )German and Indo-European philology to descriptive Native American linguistics to psychological anthropologyPhoto and biographical info fromDid undergraduate work at Columbia University in NY. Studied German and philology. Discovered Boas, and all of his ideas about Language and linguistic universals were countered by Boas and examples from Native American languages.Dissertation was a grammar of Takelma, originally spoken in SW Oregon.recorded for posterity 39 different Amerindian languages, often working with the last living speakerIn 1921 Sapir published Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech , the only book he completed during his lifetime.
3Albert Einstein ( )Theory of Specific RelativityField TheoryOverthrough of classical mechanics
4A 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 activity is a matter of neurological lingages and rapports sustained by physiological structures and processesanalogous to electromagnetic fieldsdifferent energy fields interpenetrating, overlapping, and being subsumed by others"We might, for instance, wich to reconceptualize human communication as a matter of mind fields intermeshing or setting up resistances in relationshpi to each other, linguistic activity being a significant mediator of these effects. A fiedl theory of mind also allows us to imagine individual mind activity as a manifestation of social, or even universal mind activity, or perhaps a participation in it, without any logical inconsistency.every ustterance implicates the entire systemwhen it fades from attention, it returns to a state of potentiality"could anchor a a material conception of mind far more subtle and sophisticated than that accommodated by the mechanistic (classical) physics of his contemporaries."Points in the Pattern idea from Sapirshared with Sapir to focus on holistic, dynamic systems and systemic relationshipsEinstein & Infeld (1938:151) is from Lee 1996:44Mind is a system of neurological linkages and rapport sustaied by physiological structures and processesMinds as intermeshing or resisting one another.A Manifestation of social or universal mind activity
5Sapir - ‘points in the pattern’ Language “consists of a peculiar symbolic relation—physiologically an aribitrary one—between 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 man’s psychic or ‘spiritual’ constitution’.P10 LanguageSapir 1921:10“The particular points of clusters of points of localization in the several tracts that refer to any element of langauge are connected in the brain by paths of association, so that the outward, or psycho-physical, aspect of language is a vast network of associated localizations in the brain and lower nervous tracts, the auditory being without doubt the most fundamental of all for speech.”
6An American Indian Model of the Universe Hopi Time is notA smooth flowing continuumIn which everything proceeds at an equal rateOut of a futureThrough a presentinto a pastIn our timeThe observerIs being carriedIn the stream of durationContinuously awway fromA pastAnd into a futureHopi time disappearsHopi space is alteredNew concepts and abstractionsFlow into the picture
7The Hopi Universe presents Two grand cosmic formsWe may call themManifestedAndManifestingOne is objectivePastAnd presentAll that IsOr has beenAccessileTo the sensesThe other is subjectiveFutureAppearanceExistenceWithin and behindAll the formsAnd appearancesOf natureIn the heartMentalOf animalsPlantsThingsThoughtThinking itselfOut from an inner realmIt isAndHeartManifesting
8The striving of purposeful desire Intelligent in character Toward manifestationA manifestationWhich is much resistedAnd delayedBut in some formOr otherIs inevitableIt is the realmOf expectancyOf desire and purposeOf vitalizing lifeOf effieicent causesOf thoughtThinking itselfOutFrom and innerRealmIt is inA dynamicStateYet notA stateOf motionThought and heartAre already with usIN a vitalAnd mental FormThey areIntellectionAnd Emotion"... he used language as a point of entry into the deepest levels of American Indian philosophy. In so doing he challenged anthropoloigsts to discover a model of our own universe within which we can udnerstand the American Indian model. He challenged us to discover and develop a language of anthropological poetics.”Riddington 1991
9Cryptotypes Key part of theory of ‘psycholinguistic patterning’ Part of a field theory of mind and languageInvestigating the systematicity - the local categories - of a language“Language: Plan and Conception of Arrangement”had Whorf lived to publish on his "psycholinguistic patterning', psycholinguistics might have developed with a very different charactersits to the discipiline which did eventually emerge undre that name."wanted to shift terminology from verb, noun, passive voice, etc. (at least not use them a priori)"The concepts of covert categories and cryptotypes were thus introduced as part of a larger framework for grammatical analysis, and this system was in turn contextualized some six months later in the yet more comprehensive methodology outlined in the Yale report."Hockett and others find his discussion of grammatical categories much more imporantant that relativity"Language: Plan and Conception of Arrangement" - discursive field is part of language, one could say culture is subsumed into any linguistic investigation and description"Whorf conceptualized covert ctegories in terms of his holistic field theory model of neurolinguistic organization suggests that the link to Sapir's thought was primary."Bloomfield like the Hopi sketch by Whorf (in Hoijer 1946) - unquestioning acceptance of Whorf's descriptive expertise"... Whorf's comment that 'covert categories are quite apt to be more rational than over ones' (1937c[LTR]:80) reflected his opinion that grammatical categories which operate according to an elusive or submerged principle ...revealed "the TRUE SHAPES of many of those foces which hitherto have been ... but the inscrutable blank of invisible and bodiless thought' (p.73).:
10Cryptotypes"... 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 ).He argued ... that investigating covert grammatical categories (which he described as working in tandem with over categories and not underlying them as some have imagined), might be especially helpful in revealing the nature of linguistic thinking."The test unit is the sentence, or sometimes small group of sentences (immediate field of discourse), not the word" (Whorf & Trager 1938:5).Charles J. Fillmore believed that "'the concept of 'covert category' ﾑa concept which is making it possible to believe that at bottom all languages are essentially alike' (pp.3-4).""Whorf worked from a well accepted assumption, ... among his immediate professional associates, that marking is the basis of category classification, and theat he went form that asumption to apply the principle to the discovery of more elusive categories.""The fact that Whorf thought it necessary to stress that an analyst should forswear reliance, pending further investigation, even on the assumption that there would be verbs and nouns in a language simply highlights the rigor with which he applied the method of his predecessors and contemporaries.""Whorf probably culled the term 'reactance' from physical science where it is used to refer to the imaginary component of a cechanical or acoustic empedance which produces a phase differance between a driving force and the resultant motion, but no dissipation of energy."dynamic not static"... cryptotype which occasions the distinctive reactance elsewhere in the immediate discourse encironment as having the 'driving force' of the dictionary defintino. What is involve dis a kind of energy, both semantic and presumably neurological, in the field theory sense Whorf used when thinking about cognitive activity."
11Cryptotypes compare Vygotsky 1986:249-- "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."Whorf, like Vygotsky, also completely rejected the idea of any isomorphism between the manifest speech function and 'the nature of the RAPPORT, the structure of matrix relations' (p.67) involved in cognitive activity of a linguistic kind.His molar and dynamic conception of mind, employing the kind of imagery now coming into its own in connectionist and holographic models of cognitive operation, did however capture some of the fluidity that thought often sems to have when considered from teh orientation of subjective experience and is in sharp contrast to those metaphors of mind which rely predominantly on notions of clearly spearate entities and interactive processes operating on the world model of classical physics.Whorf probably culled the term 'reactance' from physical science where it is used to refer to the imaginary component of a cechanical or acoustic empedance which produces a phase differance between a driving force and the resultant motion, but no dissipation of energy.dynamic not static"... cryptotype which occasions the distinctive reactance elsewhere in the immediate discourse encironment as having the 'driving force' of the dictionary defintion. What is involve dis a kind of energy, both semantic and presumably neurological, in the field theory sense Whorf used when thinking about cognitive activity."
12Shifting terms Cryptotype and phenotype - Groups of words Grammatical meaningsSemantic categoriescrypotype and phenotype sometimes used to refer to grammatical meanings shared by items in a certain class rather than the groups of words or stems themselvesinvestigating covert categories requires deep studydifferences between overt and covert categories are of degree , not of kindcommon semantic notion shared by items in a covert cateogrycryptal cats are hard to ID because neither inevitably nor overtly markedsemantic ramifications of items in the category may be so diffuse that giving words to them is hard"its mode of operation is so far from conscious awareness that it is, in effect, an undercover or secret process ﾑ active, but unmonitored and, indeed, almost unmonitorable as we speak and think."what is overt in one language may be covert in anothercovert categories do not necessarily = deep structure"any scientific grammar is necessarily a deep analysis into relations." (LTR:68).Bohm's 'enfolded/unfolded', 'implicate.explicate' and 'unmanifest.manifest' terminiology is useful in relation to these constructs"the manifestations of these class-distinctions in thinking and the character of the sometimes rather deeply-hidden and seldom-appearing reactances suggest the phenomena associated with the unconscious, subconscious, or foreconscious in pyschology, though on a more socialized and less purely personal plane, and may connect in a significant manner therewith." (Yale report)Whorf consistently taking Sapir's ideas a stage further in theoretical and technical senses"it is unlikely that Whorf thoguht of the conceptual concomitants (the phenotypes or cryptotypes ) of either overt or covert categories as mental 'objects' or 'entities' in the traditional philosophical sense which has been paramount in linguistics in recent decades ﾑ that is, as items charactized by lists of features stored in mental filing cabinets."LTR:67--"Sense or meaning does not result from words or morphemes but from patterned relations between words or morphemes."
13Holism and Holography Language is embedded in a field of dicourse Language is a part of cultureTotal sum of way of beingAny single manifestation implicates the entire systemCompare with Boas’ “Principles of Ethnological Classification”
14Contradiction?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?
15Contradiction - NoP 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.’”Boas pointed out that there is no correlation between the size or complexity of a society and the grammatical structure of a language, what kind of forms it uses and what kinds of grammatical categories are featured in morphology and syntax.
16Contradiction - NoP 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.Boas pointed out that there is no correlation between the size or complexity of a society and the grammatical structure of a language, what kind of forms it uses and what kinds of grammatical categories are featured in morphology and syntax.
17Two definitions of ‘Language’ Saussurian (structuralist system)Sapirean (languaculture)Can sometimes see two different definitions of language at workLanguage as grammar + lexiconLanguage as all aspects of expression based upon the neurological and physiological capacities for speech in the species
18Languages 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)The connection is complex.Identifying specific causes and effects nearly impossible. General patterns identifiable.
19Misinterpreting Whorf’s ideas Chicago “Language in Culture” ConferenceQuick to trivalize the man/thinkerOverplayed his religion (misread Carroll’s biography?)Stuart Chase’s 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.”a couple of big conferences involving Wenner-Gren discussed issues connected directly to writings and ideas of Sapir and WhorfChicago 1953 Language in Culture conference is where things went downhill and scientistic language took overrapid and puzzling fading of awareness of Whorf's scholar status in his own daysome real nonesense published on Whorf the man/thinker, emphasizing his employment as insurance adjuster (inspector) and his relationship to Sapir, or misundertanding his scientific outlookSteven Pinker seems to have relied primarily on secondary lit, simplifying Whorf to quesiton of whether "thought is the same ting as language" (Pinker 1994:57).people have overplayed Whorf's religion, he was not a Christian fundamentalistwent to Theosophical Society summer camps and associated with various free thinkersScience and Linguistics: "wanted to avoid having 'the point of the argument' foncused 'with various popular bromides about the misleading nature of words, which amounts to going off entirely the wrong track'. He said he did "not want to have the article confused with things like the recent popular stultification of a similar subject by Mr. Stuart Chase, whom I should consider utterly incompetent by training and background to handle such a subject."" (in a letter to editor Frederick G. Fassett, Jr. of Technology Review by MIT.)Whorf also remarked prophetically in a letter that “For the immediate future, probably the loose-thinking ‘semanticists’ a la Stuar Chase, will introduce many popular cliches and make [the] term ‘semantics’ a hissing and byword, so that it will cease to be used by serious scientists.”Reading the foreword convinces me that he was no more competent to assess what Whorf said in 1955 that when Whorf judged him in 1940.
20Sapir 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.”“Language is a guide to ‘social reality.’”“We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.”Virginia Hymes on Wasco Indian Reservation:“What do you say when someone knocks at the door?”Expectations, habits, convenient shortcuts
21Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) 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 one’s own cosmic viewpoint — indeed one’s personal linguistic pattern.”Language and Weltanschaung“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 one’s own cosmic viewpoint — indeed one’s personal linguistic pattern.”Other people thinking similar things before and after HumboldtKantian ideas of a priori concepts structuring our perceptions of the worldCassier sees language as a prison, escapable only by transcending it through art or mythThe problem is that this statement is too strong. Language and culture are not such a prison. We can understand other people’s worldviews, although sometime it takes a lot of effort. Sapir and Whorf were a lot more subtle than this.
22Sapir-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 (p.vi)Whorf frames his statements as empirical conclusions.Whorf’s principle of linguistic relativitySapir-Whorf axiom, or better a principleNo discussion of dependent and independent variablesWhorf was a chemical engineer, and damn good one. He knew about hypothesis testing, but that wasn’t his point.Whorf’s larger point is the holistic connection of language and culture, a single whole which cannot be analyzed separately.(in a letter to editor Frederick G. Fassett, Jr. of Technology Review by MIT, Whorf explained the title of his popular piece as “Science and Linguistics” and not something catchier because he "wanted to avoid having 'the point of the argument' foncused 'with various popular bromides about the misleading nature of words, which amounts to going off entirely the wrong track'. He said he did "not want to have the article confused with things like the recent popular stulitification of a similar subject by Mr. Stuart Chase, whom I should consider utterly incompetent by training and background to handle such a subject.""
23Linguistic 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 minds—and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds.” (213)– B. L. WhorfThe connection is complex.Identifying specific causes and effects nearly impossible. General patterns identifiable.we cannot talk at all without following the organization and classification required by that of our linguistic system (language)“We are thus introduced to a new principle of relativity, which holds that all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated.”In tutorials need to discuss what this calibration entails. How does it work? Why would it be important?
24SAE Objectification John Locke (1632-1704) An Essay Concerning Human UnderstandingIdea = “the object of the understanding when a man thinks”All ideas come from sensation or reflectionMost important simple idea is solidityBurtt, E.A The English philosophers : from Bacon to Mill. New York: The Modern library. Def idea p247Society of Automotive Engineers?Sensation comes from external objects, perceived through our senses. Sensation is primary. First we have ideas from the external world, and then after these build up we reflect upon them.Solidity discussed p256ffReceived from touch - “that which thus hinders the approach of two bodies, when they are moving one towards another”Fills space, distinct from space or hardnessP259“If anyone asks me what this solidity is, I send him to his senses to inform him. Let him put a flint or a football between his hands, and then endeavor to joint them, and he will know.”SAE objectification reifies intangible experiences into tangible things.Thus, in our European languages things and their names have primacy of importance. The world is occupied by things that have names. But there are other ways of thinking about the world: processes, forces, change on-going in a stream of existence. A world of verbs.Whorf is particularly interested in this world of verbs. Follows from contemporary fascination for Einstein and theories of relativity in the interwar period.
25Form and Content SAE dualities - body and soul The form (shape, structure, appearance) can beseparated from thecontent (material, essence, nature) of the thing.Hopi people don’t make a necessary distinction between form and content, don’t rely on objects in space as a primary metaphor for time, person, other qualitiesTheory as a building