1) Key terms
o Language & Culture- an interdependent relationship;
“The content of every culture is expressible in its languages” (6)-
Language is a means of expressing culture –the totality of the actions
and thoughts of the people within a culture.
Language “enables human beings to transcend the immediately given
in their individual experiences and to join in a larger common
understanding” (7)- Language accumulates to culture, a universal
field that people can relate to.
By bringing to the surface the differentiability of languages, Sapir is
able to diversify the notion of culture all together.
o Referential symbolism- symbols that have become compressed forms of
functional activities which can be used to refer back to that activity
o Condensation symbolism- a highly condensed form of substitute behavior
for direct expression allowing for the ready release of emotion; closely
related with emotion. Symbols don‟t just refer to things in the world but
evoke emotion. Ex) Flag in a war.
2) Important quotes
o “Language is an essentially perfect means of expression and
communication among every know people” (Sapir 1)
o Language “does not as a matter of actual behavior stand apart from or run
parallel to direct experience but completely interpenetrates with it” (8)-
The social reality we talk about takes meaning through the words that
o “Language is a guide to „social reality‟…No two languages are ever
sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social
reality…The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds,
not merely the same world with different labels attached” (69)- Language
is not just a naming system of labels referring the same objects in different
cultures but that language is equivalent to culture. Words in differing
languages define much more such as the history and essence of a word in
a cultural context.
3) Quotes or concepts to compare/contrast with other authors
o “Language is heuristic… its forms predetermine for us certain modes of
observation and interpretation” (7)
This can be compared to Foucault‟s notion of how an episteme, in a
sense equivalent to a time period of culture,” present the conditions
that make it possible to know what we know and dictate the kinds of
knowledge that are excluded/accepted.
This can also be compared with how once a myth is naturalized, that
myth can shape our interpretation of a certain concept and its
o “Language is at one and the same time helping and retarding us in our
exploration of experience” (8) –By choosing to say one thing, one chooses
not to say another
This can be associated to Saussure‟s ideas on the signification and
value of signs. When people choose to use one word instead of
another, they look into the connotations, or values, that a sign has. Sapir goes further to say that these decisions based on the values of
signs can impede or facilitate our knowledge and understanding.
o “Language may not only refer to experience or even mold, interpret, and
discover experience, but that it also substitutes for it” (9)
This can be compared to Austin‟s idea of the performative in which
words do more than referring, but also substitutes for action. It is
different in that Sapir believes that words don‟t stop at substituting
action but molds thoughts afterwards, exteriorizes emotions to be
o “Language is a great force of socialization” (15)- A strong relation
between the way we think and act with the way we speak. Through
language, we know what is acceptable in a certain culture, what is the
This can be contrasted with Foucault‟s idea of normalizing the
delinquents rather than punishing the offenders through discipline.
Here, Foucault uses discipline as a way of teaching what is and isn‟t
socially acceptable, rather than language. If we go further back in