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Edward Sapir (1884 —1939 ) German and Indo-European philology to descriptive Native American linguistics to psychological anthropology Demonstrate view,

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Presentation on theme: "Edward Sapir (1884 —1939 ) German and Indo-European philology to descriptive Native American linguistics to psychological anthropology Demonstrate view,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Edward Sapir (1884 —1939 ) German and Indo-European philology to descriptive Native American linguistics to psychological anthropology Demonstrate view, notes slides. Photo and biographical info from Did 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 speaker In 1921 Sapir published Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech , the only book he completed during his lifetime.

2 Sapir, “The Status of Linguistics as a Science”
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 All human behavior is symbolic Language is a key to analysis of unconscious symbols from “The Status of Linguistics as a Science” in Language 5 (1929):209. “In a sense, the network of cultural patterns of a civilization is indexed in the language which expresses that civilization.” “Language is a guide to 'social reality.’” language is a classificatory system for our perceptions “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 “... language as the symbolic guide to culture.” symbolic behavior “... it is precisely in the field of symbolism that linguistic forms and processes will contribute most to the enrichment of psychology.” “Linguists should be in an excellent position to assist in the process of making clear to ourselves the implications of our terms and linguistic procedures.” - (Lakoff & Johnson) All human activity is fundamentally symbolic. An understanding of symbols and symbolic processes is critical to any study of humankind. “... an understanding of language mechanisms is necessary for the study of both historical problems and problems of human behavior.” “Behind the apparent lawlessness of social phenomena there is a regularity of configuration and tendency which is just as real as the regularity of physical processes in a mechanical world, though it is a regularity of infinitely less apparent rigidity and of another mode of apprehension on our part.” “It is peculiarly important that linguists, who are often accused, and accused justly, of failure to look beyond the pretty patterns of their subject matter, should become aware of what their science may mean for the interpretation of human conduct in general. Whether they like it or not, they must become increasingly concerned with the many anthropological, sociological, and psychological problems which invade the field of language.”

3 Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897 —1941 ) From 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 Chemical engineer (MIT), fire insurance inspector, amateur linguist ciphers, classical languages to Mayan, anthropology, Hopi via Sapir

4 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) The connection is complex. Identifying specific causes and effects nearly impossible. General patterns identifiable.

5 Wilhelm 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 Humboldt Kantian ideas of a priori concepts structuring our perceptions of the world Classirer sees language as a prison, escapable only by transcending it through art or myth The 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.

6 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 minds—and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds.” (213) – B. L. Whorf The 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?

7 Vocabulary and Classification
R. W. Brown and E. H. Lenneberg “A Study of Language and Cognition,” Journal of American Social Psychology. 49: E. H. Lenneberg and J. M. Roberts “The Language of Experience: A Case Study”. Memoirs of the International Journal of American Linguistics. No. 13. Vocabulary and Classification Basic/primary colour terms: blue, green, yellow, orange, red, white, black Daribi: huzhuku - dark mama’ - light Russian: goluboy - sky blue siniy - blue, dark blue Derivative colour terms: violet, aqua, turquoise Roger Brown and Eric Lenneberg investigated Whorf’s claims to the connection between language and thought by seeing how people talked about and remembered colours they were shown on standard colour chips. Spectrum broken up into series of chips of graduated colours. The standard human comes with colour perception which seems to operate pretty much the same all over the world. You hold up two chips with colour painted on them and nearly anyone can tell you whether they are the same of different. We call both of these colours blue, but we also all agree that they differ from one another. The interesting thing is that different languages may have different classifications systems of the colour spectrum built into their primary colour terms. Daribi has two primary colour terms, Russian has a similar number as English, plus one, since it divides our “blue” into two primary terms. This is codability. How easy is it to name something (in this case a colour) in a language? Then they tested for availability - how well you work with these differences. Brown and Lenneberg showed the chip to people, then took it away, tossed it into a tray full of chips, shook well, and asked the person to pick out the chip shown earlier. The better a group of people do, the more available the colour (concept) is for that group. So, following Whorf, one would expect the more codable a concept, the more available it would be. As Whorf said, your language makes some things easier to do than others. The first test was with native speakers of English and Zuni. Zuni colour terms are similar to English, except they don’t have two words distinguishing what we call yellow and orange. Thus yellow-orange bits are ‘less codable’ in Zuni than in English. English speakers should do better in the yellow-orange area, not because they are smarter or see difference Zuni can’t, but because their language makes those concepts more available to them. Conclusions were that monolingual Zuni speakers had the lowest yellow-orange availability scores, the bilingual Zuni-English came next, and the monolingual English-speaking Indians had scores just like those of non-Zuni native speakers of English.

8 Colour terms Two colour terms: white and black (light & dark)
Three: red, white, black Four: yellow or green, red, white, black Five: yellow, green, red, white, black Six: blue, yellow, green, red, white, black Seven: brown, blue, yellow, green, red, white, black Eight +: purple/pink/orange/grey + above Language lays down comfortable ruts of perception, and people by and large stay inside them. They know the ruts, function quickly and efficiently within them. It isn’t that they can’t go outside them, but when they do, it takes time and energy. And we all know how most people react when you asked them for a little extra time and energy. Language carries with it patterns of seeing, knowing, talking, and acting. These patterns don’t imprison you, by at at once enable and guide you, like a train on a set of tracks. It can’t go off the tracks, but it can’t go anywhere without tracks, either. Brent Berlin and Paul Kay continued the investigation into Whorf’s ideas using colour terms. They learned the basic colour terms. This is contentious, but for now, we know that “red” is a basic term but “reddish-orange” is not. Likewise, violet and turquoise are derivative terms, names of objects that are iconic of that colour. Once they had the basic colour terms for a given language, they laid a spectrum in front of a speaker and mark the single chip that was the best example of a specific term and then draw a circle around all the chips that you could call by that term. They found some interesting universals. Nearly all languages have a term for red and nearly everyone points to the same (or very similar chips) as the best prototypical example of red. The circles, however, varied considerably from one language to another. Red is red in nearly any language:

9 Eskimo words for snow Boas Introduction to HAIL (1911: 21-22) :
aput - snow on the ground qana - falling snow piqsirpoq - drifting snow qimuqsuq - snowdrift Whorf : English one word (snow) | Eskimo - three words “We have the same word for falling snow, snow on the ground, snow packed hard like ice, slushy snow, wind-driven flying snow … To an Eskimo, this all-inclusive word would be almost unthinkable … he uses different words for them and for other kinds of snow.” So what? The sordid tale of anthropological exaggeration is detailed in Martin, Laura “Eskimo Words for Snow”: A Case Study in the Genesis and Decay of an Anthropological Example. American Anthropologist 88(2): (available on JSTOR) Also title essay in Pullum, Geoffrey K The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax. Chicago UP Cecil Adams claims to have the straight dope: Anthony Woodbury has a considered contribution on the Linguist List: Boas: Thus it happens that each language, form the point of view of another language, may be arbitrary in its classification; that what appears as a single simple idea in one language may be characterized by a series of distinct phonetic groups in another.” HAIL intro, p23 But obsessing over words, vocabulary, misses the interesting bit, the way languages provide implicit categories of the world, implicit conceptualizations of what is taken for granted, what is so obvious, no one talks about it.

10 SAE Objectification John Locke (1632-1704)
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 Burtt, E.A The English philosophers : from Bacon to Mill. New York: The Modern library. Def idea p247 Society 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 p256ff Received from touch - “that which thus hinders the approach of two bodies, when they are moving one towards another” Fills space, distinct from space or hardness P259 “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.

11 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 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 qualities Theory as a building

12 Trains moving really fast Single constant = speed of light (c)
Train A: moving at 1/2c Train B moving at 3/4c From Train A, it looks like the clocks in Train B are running slower and their meter stick is shorter. For example, relative to a person standing beside a train track, a train might be going north at 20 km/hr. However, in the frame of someone sitting on the train, that person is moving south at 20km/hr. Furthermore, to a third person walking towards the front of the train at 5 km/hr, the other two are both moving south, at 25km/hr and 5km/hr respectively. The front of the carriage might be 5m to his north, but at the same instant, it is 995m to the south of some at the rear of another train one kilometer ahead, traveling at 30km/hr. Under the Lorentz transformation, these people, all traveling at different velocities would find that their definitions of relative velocities and distance would not match (although at these speeds, the difference is only detectable with the most sensitive equipment like atomic clocks)! Until Einstein, the Lorentz Transformation and other results were usually considered as mathematical oddities or puzzles. Einstein resolved these issues in the special theory of relativity by making several simple postulates: 1) The laws of physics are the same in all inertial reference frames (an inertial reference frame is one that is not accelerating). 2) The speed of light in all direction is c, in every inertial reference frame, no matter what the motion of the emitter or the observer. If all the laws of physics are identical, then specifically Maxwell's equations, which determine the speed of light, must be the same for all observers moving at a constant velocity. SO, for observers moving at different velocities we have 1) Time dilation - moving clocks run slowly. 2) Length contraction - moving rulers (and everything else) get shorter Quantum mechanics suggested that Newton is fine for normal, everyday kinds of experiences, but for really big stuff, the size of planets, moving really fast, near the speed of light, all bets are off in Newtonian terms. However, within a given inertial frame of reference (train is not speeding up, but at constant velocity) you can perform Newtonian experiments just fine. They don’t work when viewed between frames of reference.

13 Fig. 11overview . Whorf’s point is the contrast between English’s requirement to specify when something happened and Hopi’s requirement to specify how you know about an event.

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