The Sapir Whorf Hypothesis Essay

1074 words - 4 pages

The selected chapter Words and Culture is written by Ronald Wardhaugh in his book An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. This chapter focuses on the interreationship between language and culture. The author first introduces the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which claims that language has strong influence on culture. He then discusses the study of kinship terms, (folk) taxonomies, color terms, prototypes, and taboo and euphrmisms used in different cultures to furthur support the hypothesis.
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis illustrates the stucture of one language strongly affect the world-view of its speakers. Wardhaugh first quotes the explaination from Sapir and Whorf to demonstrates a clear outline of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.Sapir believes language and culture is “inextricably related” (Wardhaugh, 2009). He states how people usually use language largely constructs reality. Whorf extends Sapir’s idea and claims that the relationship between language and culture is “a deterministic one” (Wardhaugh, 2009). He interpres that the linguistic system of one language develops a certain thinking pattern, which could influence the world-view of that group (Wardhaugh, 2009). Wardhaugh then analyzes the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis with different perspectives. In his analysis, society and language form a mutual relation of reflection and construction. To support the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, Wardhaugh expresses his opinions mainly in two aspects. First, speakers of their first language are more senstive to their culture and more easier to perceive the slight distinctions in their language. Second, the linguistice system helps as well as limits the understandings of the culture of their language. In this manner, a problem of lost in translation, which means a certain amount of knowledge in one language fails to be understood by speakers of another language, raises from the interretionship of language and culture. Language is a mirror, which is reflecting the collection of thoughts of one culture. Terms with marked features of one language is hard to deliver the same meaning in another language. For example, the word kungfu [功夫] in English, which is borrowed from Chinese, fails to demonstrate the English culture due to the lack of a proper reference. This proves that one person’s frame of knowledge, which is recognized as culture, is influenced by the language they use.
Wardhaugh furthur supports the hypoesis with the relationship between human and the external world and syntactic evidence. Also, he disagrees with the anti- Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by opposing the aborted attempts to separate language and culture from each other. Wardhaugh explains the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in details and demonstrates a clear observation of the interreationship of language and culture. However, he does not mention the influence of the variety of one language to their speakers. For instance, both Americans and Filipinos speak English, but these two countries share distinctive cultures....

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