Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

This hypothesis-a position of linguistic relativity-argues that (to quote one of its authors) language ‘is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas, but is itself a shaper of ideas, the programme and guide for the individual's meaningful activity’. In short, language determines (or shapes) our perceptions of reality. The classic literary example of this is the ‘newspeak’ of the totalitarian rulers of George Orwell's 1984. The most famous commonly cited examples in social science are probably those of the Hanunoo, who have 92 names for rice, each conveying a different reality, and the Eskimo, who have over a hundred words for snow. Such fine differentiation permits these cultures to see important facets of their culture more clearly.
This is an important theory and there is broad truth in the argument that language plays a role in shaping reality. But it should not be overstated and collapse into extreme relativism : there seem also to be linguistic universals, or features common to every language; and words are often invented to reflect, rather than construct new phenomena in reality. (In the case of microwave ovens, for example, we need the word ‘microwave’ to depict a real phenomenon-not to invent the ovens themselves.)

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sapir– Whorf hypothesis — Sapir–Whorf hypothesis …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Sapir–Whorf hypothesis — In linguistics, the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis (SWH) (also known as the linguistic relativity hypothesis ) postulates a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands… …   Wikipedia

  • sapir-whorf hypothesis — sə¦pi(ə)rˈ(h)wȯ(ə)rf noun Usage: usually capitalized S&W Etymology: after Edward Sapir died 1939 & Benjamin Lee Whorf died 1941 American linguists : whorfian hypothesis herein * * * Sapir Whorf hypothesis 7 [ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Sapir–Whorf hypothesis — Also known as the thesis of linguistic determinism, the view named after the linguists Edward Sapir (1884–1939) and Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897–1941), that the language people speak determines the way they perceive the world. As such, the view has a …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Sapir-Whorf hypothesis — /seuh pear hwawrf , hwohrf , wawrf , wohrf / a theory developed by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf that states that the structure of a language determines or greatly influences the modes of thought and behavior characteristic of the culture… …   Universalium

  • Sapir-Whorf hypothesis — /səpɪə wɔf haɪˈpɒθəsəs/ (say suhpear wawf huy pothuhsuhs) noun a linguistic theory that sets up a connection between the vocabulary and grammatical categories of a particular language and the way in which the native speaker of that language views …   Australian English dictionary

  • Sapir-Whorf hypothesis — гипотеза Сепира Уорфа …   Термины гендерных исследований

  • Sapir–Whorf hypothesis — …   Useful english dictionary

  • Sapir-Whorf-Hypothese —   [sə pɪə wɔːf ], linguịstische Relativitätstheorie, linguịstisches Relativitätsprinzip, Sprachwissenschaft: auf E. Sapir und B. L. Whorf zurückgehende, in den 1950er Jahren entstandene und auf der ethnolinguistischen Grundlage der Erforschung… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Sapir-Whorf-Hypothese — Die Sapir Whorf Hypothese besagt, Sprache forme das Denken. Sie ist eine unter mehreren Hypothesen, die sich mit dem Zusammenhang zwischen Sprache und Denken befassen. Dabei geht es um die Frage, wie sich eine bestimmte Sprache mit ihren… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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