Definition and Examples of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis | Define Sapir-Whorf hypothesis …
Boas' student Edward Sapir reached back to the Humboldtian idea that languages contained the key to understanding the differing world views of peoples. In his writings he espoused the viewpoint that because of the staggering differences in the grammatical systems of languages no two languages were ever similar enough to allow for perfect translation between them. Sapir also thought because language represented reality differently, it followed that the speakers of different languages would perceive reality differently. According to Edward Sapir:
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A main point of debate in the discussion of linguistic relativity is the correlation between language and thought. The strongest form of correlation is linguistic determinism, which would hold that language entirely determines the range of possible cognitive processes of an individual. This view has sometimes been attributed to Benjamin Lee Whorf, and to , but it is not currently the consensus that either of these thinkers actually espoused determinist views of the relation between language and thought. Linguistic determinism is also sometimes described as "the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis", while other forms of correlation are referred to as "the weak Sapir-Whorf hypothesis". The notion of "weak" and "strong" versions of Whorf's principle of linguistic relativity is a misunderstanding of Whorf promulgated by , whom Whorf considered "utterly incompetent by training and background to handle such a subject." Neither Sapir nor Whorf ever suggested a distinction between weak or strong versions of their views. The hypothesis of linguistic determinism is now generally agreed to be false, but weaker forms of correlation are still being studied by many researchers, often producing positive for a correlation.