The Sapir-Whorf Theory Of Language

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The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is a theory that a person’s thoughts and actions are determined by the language or languages that the individual speaks. The structure and meaning, as well as the culture of the speakers, are hypothesise to affect and shape the thoughts of the speaker. Following are quotes from the two linguists who first formulated the hypothesis and for whom it is named:
“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
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It is considered to be the definition of the hypothesis. Linguistic relativity is the theory that languages that differ in vocabulary and structure express different cultural meanings. This weaker version takes a look at language and it’s connection to thoughts and culture in a wider perspective than the strong version. It is this version of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis that shows some promise. Language does influence the thoughts of the speaker and his or her view of the world.
Many have urged that large differences in language lead to large differences in experience and thought. The difference between this view and the determinism view is that language does not limit our actions and thoughts. It only influences our thoughts and actions. Where previously the stronger view say thought is restricted by language, the weaker view say the opposite. Linguistic relativity would have us assume that those who speak the same language would have the same world view and understanding. That would also mean that different languages still means different world
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However, there are criticisms for both the stronger and weaker forms of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Among the criticisms of the strong form of the hypothesis is that the link between linguistic behaviour and the perceptual difference is arbitrary. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is based on different vocabulary systems and grammatical structures. Whorf (1940) claimed if one language has several different words for some closely related objects and another language refers to these objects by a single word, then the speaker of the first language must note perceptually the characteristics that distinguish the objects, whereas the speaker of the second language need not. In this way, speakers do not have the same mental picture of the objects. This is not true. The vocabulary and grammatical system are arbitrary to their different world views. The Eskimos have countless words for snow, because it is necessary for them to distinguish different kinds of snow. Snow is extremely important and so crucial to life that its various forms and conditions are named. In English-speaking cultures, snow is far less important and the simple word ‘snow’ is enough, but it does not mean that the English-speaking people do not have the ability to distinguish different shapes of
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