Skip Nav

Linguistic relativity

Expert Answers

❶The protagonist explains that "the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is the theory that the language you speak determines how you think". For example, they found that even though languages have different color terminologies, they generally recognize certain hues as more focal than others.

Report Abuse

Related Questions
Navigation menu

In the course of his research, Whorf noticed that Hopi and some other languages Hebrew , Aztec and Maya were built on a different plan from that of English and many other languages which he called SAE Standard Average European languages. He discovered a number of significant features differentiating Hopi from SAE languages that led him to the idea of linguistic determinism.

Its assessment of time is different from SAE linear temporal view of past, present and future and varies with each observer:. Hopi time is non-dimensional and cannot be counted or measured in a way SAE languages measure it, i.

Hopi grammatical categories signify view of the world as an ongoing process, where time is not divided into fixed segments so that certain things recur, e. The linguistic structure of SAE languages, on the other hand, gives its speakers more fixed, objectified and measurable understanding of time and space, where they distinguish between countable and uncountable objects and view time as a linear sequence of past, present, and future.

Whorf argues that this and numerous other differences imply a different way of thinking. Since thought is expressed and transmitted through language, it follows that a differently structured language must shape thought along its lines, thus influencing perception. Consequently, a Hopi speaker who perceives the world through the medium of his language must see reality through the patterns laid down by its linguistic structure.

Other studies supporting the principle of linguistic determinism have shown that people find it easier to recognize and remember shades of colors for which they have a specific name. Linguistic determinism can also be evident in situations where the means of drawing attention to a certain aspect of an experience is language. For example, in French, Spanish or Russian there are two ways to address a person because those languages have two second person pronouns — singular and plural.

The choice of the pronoun depends on the relationship between the two people formal or informal and the degree of familiarity between them. In this respect, the speaker of any of those languages is always thinking about the relationship when addressing another person and therefore unable to separate those two processes. These individuals could not conceive numbers beyond 'one' and 'two', for which there are no actual terms in their language.

After this all numbers are grouped under the term 'many. However, linguistic determinism has been widely criticized for its absolutism and refuted by linguists. For instance, Michael Frank et. Another argument against the principle of linguistic determinism is that humans are able to perceive objects and events that have no corresponding words in our mental lexicon, even if existing linguistic representations would make the perception easier.

Opponents of the theory maintain that thought exists prior to any conception of language. Steven Pinker's theory embodies this idea. He proposed that all individuals are first capable of a "universal mentalese", of which all thought is composed prior to its linguistic form.

Language then enables us to articulate these already existing thoughts into words and linguistic concepts. This also touches on the question of how language develops and how much it is a part of human evolution.

Despite its inherent logical flaws and denouncement by many prominent linguists, determinism is not entirely irrelevant. In literature and film, many fictional languages have been created and used to demonstrate or test the function of determinism in a fictitious environment. The primary purpose of Newspeak is to control thought by way of restricting the language one can use therefore restricting how one can think. This principle is essentially a description of determinism, and Newspeak is a hypothetical implementation of it that can also be considered and experiment in its potential use.

A major component in many European languages such as French and German is the system of gendered words. Words can be masculine, feminine and sometimes neuter. Determinism or relativism comes in where the same word or object is assigned different genders in different languages. Therefore, the object itself may be considered with different adjectives that are associated with its gender.

Once again, it is unrealistic to consider this in a deterministic fashion because it would imply that a German-speaking person, for instance, would not be able to consider a bridge in any other way than feminine. While determinism is ultimately untestable, it is possible and common for an individual to speak more than one language.

Bilingualism and translations between languages acknowledge relativism in that there are differing structures in language and that it may influence how a person thinks by having to construct sentences differently , but ultimately it therefore transcends determinism because it is possible understand multiple languages.

Linguistic relativism and determinism are both at the least thought-provoking as philosophical and scientific ideas, but their merits have proven to be debatable since they were conceived.

In a broad sense, determinism is fundamentally flawed, and is considered to be so by many linguists. One need only observe real-world situations to realize that while relativism has merit and is likely to have strong ground in scientific research, determinism is simply unrealistic. That said, many experimental languages have been created, testing the function of determinism in a literal sense such as Newspeak ; and such, it is still useful for theorizing the impact and effects of language on thought, especially seeing as we do not fully understand them anyway.

The primary issue facing such research is the ethics of language deprivation experiments, which could in theory yield many results. Other than this, however, relativism and determinism are both still valid to argue over as proven by many such essays and offer up stimulating pathways for further research and discussion.

Americana, Harvard University, Cambridge. The mind of primitive man ; a course of lectures delivered before the Lowell Institute, Boston, Mass. Edward Sapir, a linguist, studied indigenous languages. These are languages of indigneous people who are the first peoples occupying a given land.

For instance, Native Americans, Inuit, and Aboriginals are three groups of indigenous peoples from the North American continent, extreme northern climates, and Australia, respectively. In his studies, Sapir was surprised at the contrasts between how indigenous people and European people spoke about the order of the world.

Examples are time as something that flows versus something that is quantifiable and linear, and relationships between people in reference to hierarchy and social proximity. This discovery led him to the conclusion that the language we are born into determines in a fixed and unalterable way the way in which we perceive objects, manipulate object, understand abstractions and our relationships to abstractions.

Here's an example about feasting from his work. The English thought is six separate words focused on the person HE , while the Nootka thought is one word with five suffixes focused on the action BOIL: Sapir's student, Benjamin Whorf, dedicated himself to proving and examining Sapir's hypothesis. In his studies, he discovered that while there are deterministic constructions of reality imposed on our cognition and perceptions through our birth-language, there are also cultural factors cultural-linguistic factors that can override aspects of the deterministic strictures of our original language or languages, if bi- or multi-lingual , and thus can enlarge our perceptions and cognition relevant to the world we experience.

According to Whorf, since there is an opportunity to broaden and enlarge the deterministic structure of language at least in degrees , then the deterministic nature of language is relativistic: As an example, the Japanese have an expression that is given as a sort of blessing when someone leaves home to go anywhere, to work, to school, to the market, anywhere.

The person departing says what is loosely translated into English as "I go come back. The person staying at home says, loosely in English, "Off you go.

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Linguistic determinism is, for the most part, ignored in favor of linguistic relativity which states that one's language influences one's view of the world but does NOT determine it. This is to say, the worldview of a speech community is influenced by the structure of its language (Language Files, p).

Privacy FAQs

The central difference between linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity is the idea that world-view concepts and thoughts cannot be altered versus can be Sapir, a linguist.

About Our Ads

Does Language Shape How We Think? Linguistic Relativity & Linguistic Determinism. Thanks for joining me on this quick tour of linguistic relativity and linguistic determinism. Don't forget to check out the other overviews of language or subscribe to the channel if you'd like to keep learning. 1 ANTH / LING week 2-part 1 • Linguistic relativity • Linguistic determinism • The relationship between Language thought (examples) Does language shape how .

Cookie Info

Language and Thought. There are two problems to confront in this arena: linguistic relativity and linguistic determinism. Relativity is easy to demonstrate. In order to speak any language, you have to pay attention to the meanings that are grammatically marked in that language. For example, in English it is necessary to mark the verb to. Linguistic determinism came to the attention of linguists and anthropologists during the s, prompted by the work of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Using prevailing linguistic approaches of his time, Whorf, who studied indigenous.