Friday, March 31, 2017

Sapir’s Hypothesis of Language and Culture

In this section we talked about language, culture and thought and how some important figures went on about the significance of this matter in an anthropological sense. Edward Sapir was a graduate student encouraged by Franz Boaz who is the “Father of American Anthropology”, yet Sapir studied culture and language, and became a linguist. Sapir, one of the anthropologists proposed a hypothesis that a language that only speaks determines how one perceives the world, the distinctions in each language are all different from one another, and thus each society and culture live in their own “Linguistic World”. He then goes off about how two groups can be similar in culture, but provide very distinct languages from one another. An example case of this is of native tribes that include the North American Indians of the Great Plains. They possessed many of the same or very similar cultural characteristics but whose languages belonged to at least six different language families. The family consists of Algonquian (Arapaho and Cheyenne), Siouan (Crow and Dakota), Uto-Aztecan (Shoshone and Comanche), Athapaskan (Sarcee and kiowa Apache), Caddoan (Wichita and Pawnee), and  Kiowa-Tanoan (Kiowa).  Boas and Sapir go on about how culture, physical type (“race”), and language were not given by nature, but a historical coincidence. In other words, if a baby who is of European decent is born in China, they then will learn the Chinese language. If a Chinese baby is born in Mexico, they then will grasp onto the language that is spoken there. Nonetheless they mentioned how similar languages between two towns can have different cultures, such as other cultures in Latin America where they all might speak the same language  with their accents can still understand one another, but they all approach a different type of culture distinct from one another.


Language, Culture, and Society, 5th Edition (2015) by Zdenek Salzmann, James Stanlaw, and NobukoAdachi

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