SAPIR-WHORF HYPOTHESIS

SAPIR-WHORF HYPOTHESIS
Examples
Gasoline drums Vs. EMPTY
Gasoline drums
People's interpretation of the linguistic sign EMPTY influenced
their perception of these drums as being safer than their FULL
counterparts, and obscured the fact that they still contained
explosive vapour
WALK-AWAY SAFE nuclear plants
Members of public: 'People living nearby could
walk rather than run, from the area in the event
of an accident&
Technical community: A plant which can
automatically shut itself down if
necessary
Critiques
Unable to make assertions about reality because
of doubting one's own ability to correctly
describe reality
Lack of empirical support: only language nuances used to
prove vast differences between language and then
expecting readers to infer those difference in thoughts and
behaviour
Danger of inescapable circularity: We observe that languages
differ and conclude that the thought of their speakers also differ,
but the only evidence is that their thoughts differ because of the
language they use
Weak Version:
More Accepted
Linguistic Relativity
The way we see the world may be
influenced by the kind of language we
use
Language heavily influences thought
Language does not influence thought
Disputes
Differences between linguistic
and non-linguistic events
No way to define language as influencing
thought when there is no distinction between
linguistic and non-linguistic events
Evidence based purely on
linguistic differences
Concept of universal
Existence of deep structures
that are common to all
languages
Translatability
Although languages may differ considerably in the
way they express certain details, it is still quite
possible to translate those details from one language
to another
Language partially influences thought
Concept of codability
Differences
Emphasizes potential for thinking to be
influenced rather than unavoidably
determined
Two-way process: the kind of language we
used in also influenced by the way we see the
world
Accepts that any influence is ascribed not to
language, but to the use within a language of
one variety rather than another, i.e sociolect
Underscores the social context of language
use rather than to purely linguistic
considerations
Strong Version
Linguistic Determinism
Thoughts and behaviour are
determined by language
Language you speak determines
how you interpret the world around
you
&No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to
be considered as representing the same social
reality
&The worlds in which different societies live are
different worlds, not merely the same world with
different labels attached&
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