Sociology Index


Whorf-Sapir hypothesis is also called Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. According to Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, language is claimed to form thought, rather than just being a means of expressing thought. People of different language communities will see and understand in different ways. Sociologists regard Whorf-Sapir hypothesis as too deterministic and stress the dynamic way in which language responds to social and technical transformation of society. He gave man speech, and speech created thought which is the measure of the universe - Shelley.

The Whorf-Sapir hypothesis is theory that one's perception of the world is determined by the structure of one's native language and that the concepts and structure of languages profoundly shape the perception and world view of speakers. There are several studies that dispute the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis. These studies favor universalism over relativism in the realm of linguistic structure and function.

Benjamin Lee Whorf; Whorfian hypothesis is the theory that one's perception of the world is determined by the structure of one's native language. Edward Sapir (1884-1939), German-born American linguistics scholar and anthropologist. His book Language (1921) presents his thesis that language should be studied within its social and cultural context.

The following two passages are among the most frequently cited from Sapir and Whorf, respectively. In the first, Sapir expresses, in terms no less lucid for being poetic, the basic empirical finding of the Boasians on the formal completeness and intellectual adequacy of unwritten languages.

Both simple and complex types of language of an indefinite number of varieties may be found spoken at any desired level of cultural advance. When it comes to linguistic form, Plato walks with the Macedonian swineherd, Confucius with the headhunting savage of Assam.

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 have to be organized in our minds. This means, largely, by the linguistic system in our minds.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis theorizes that thoughts and behavior are determined by language. If true, culture controlled by Newspeak or some other language is not just science fiction. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has caused controversy and spawned research in a variety of disciplines including linguistics, education, psychology, philosophy and anthropology.

Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf brought attention to the relationship between language, thought, and culture. Neither education nor Benjamin Lee Whorf supported it with empirical evidence. Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is the theory of linguistic determinism that states that the language you speak determines the way that you will interpret the world around you. Both Sapir and Whorf agreed that it is our culture that determines our language and the way that we categorize our thoughts about the world and our experiences in it.

Can the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis save the planet? Lessons from cross-cultural psychology for critical language policy - Delaney Michael Skerrett.
Abstract: The Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, the theory that language influences thought to the extent that people who speak different languages perceive the world differently, is discussed in the context of current calls to maintain and promote global linguistic diversity. Cross-cultural psychological research is examined to assess the extent to which the hypothesis can be shown to be true. In the 1970s, research on colour perception appeared to provide evidence against the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

Sapir Whorf Hypothesis Bibliography

Chandler, D. 1994. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

Hunt, E. and F. Agnoli. 1991. The Whorfian Hypothesis: A Cognitive Psychology Perspective. Psychology Review 98:377-389.

Johnston, P. 1996. Between Mush and a Hard Place." ETC: A Review of General Semantics 53(3):285-292.

Kay, P, W. Kempton 1984. What is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis? American Anthropologist 86.

Lucy, J. and R. Shweder. 1979. Whorf and His Critics: Linguistic and Nonlinguistic Influences on Color Memory. American Anthropologist 81:581-615.

Alford, D. 1980. "Demise of the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis."

Carroll, J. 1956. Introduction. Language, Thought Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chandler, D. 1994. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

Davies, I., P. Sowden and D. Jerrett. 1998. A Cross-cultural Study of English and Setswana Speakers on a Colour Triads Task: A Test of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. British Journal of Psychology 89:1-15.

Kay, P and W. Kempton. 1984. What is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis?" American Anthropologist 86:65-79.

Mandelbaum, D. 1956. Edward Sapir: Culture, Language Personality. Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press.

Penn, J. 1972. Linguistic Relativity Versus Innate Ideas: The Origins of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in German Thought. Paris: Mouton.

Phillips, C. 1998. Language and Thought: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

Ross, P.E. 1992. New Whoof in Whorf.: An Old Language Theory Regains its Authority. Scientific American 266(2):24-26.

Sapir, E. (1929): 'The Status of Linguistics as a Science'. In E. Sapir (1958): Culture, Language and Personality (ed. D. G. Mandelbaum). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press

Schlesinger, I.M. 1991. The Wax and Wane of Whorfian Views, in Cooper, R. and B. Spolsky (Eds.) Influence of Language on Culture Thought. New York: Mounton de Gruyter.

Skoyles, J. 1999. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: New Surprising Evidence.

Whorf, B. L. (1940): 'Science and Linguistics', Technology Review 42(6): 229-31, 247-8. Also in B. L. Whorf (1956): Language, Thought and Reality (ed. J. B. Carroll). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.