Unit 10: The Language Relativity Hypothesis
Q: Does language inﬂuence the ways that we think and make speakers of diﬀerent
languages see the world in diﬀerent ways?
Language in it's relation to culture (way of life) and perception/thought
Thought --> Language 1.
Our way of life, culture and environment help us create specialized language/A.
Language Relativity Hypothesis (Language --> Thought)!2.
Language which we learn and use aﬀects the way we perceive our environment!A.
(1) Eskimos/Innuit / snow!•
Higher # of words to say "snow" than in other languages!◦
(2) Aborigines (Australia) / holes!•
Higher # of words for "holes" than in other languages (maybe 10-12 to describe holes with ◦
diﬀerent functions; i.e. holes where lizards live)!
(3) Bedouin tribes (Middle East) / camels!•
Higher # of words for "camels" than other languages; they recognize the diﬀerent types of ◦
Did these words occur because people became aware of their surroundings or did their •
surroundings become more prominent because of the words? !
Edward Sapir (Yale, Anthropology + Linguistics) and Benjamin Lee Whorf (Amateur Linguist)!
The Language Relativity Hypothesis is also called the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis •
Language we speaks imposes a ﬁlter on the way we see outside reality !◦
Language is suggested to be functioning as a ﬁlter that highlights certain aspects of reality ◦
and obscure other sections of reality !
Grammar –– Whorf!•
Q2: Does language aﬀect thought/perception and how can we actually see this?!
The eﬀects of language on non-linguistic behavior!•
Name/Words - Trigger an establishment of a concept!•
English v. German --> car - wagen/auto + house - haus!◦
Word only in German: !◦
Gemütlichkeit: An emotional state that is unique to Germany !‣
Concept in their mind that we do not have an equivalent of here!•
Words on in American English (and on college campuses!)!◦
These words and concepts only exist in America!!•
Words and Concepts!•
Concepts: Ideas in our minds!◦
Semantic Relativity: Ideas that can be addressed diﬀer from language to language - words/