The Father Of Modern Linguistics, Edward Sapir, Characterized

1682 WordsMay 15, 20177 Pages
The father of modern linguistics, Edward Sapir, characterized language as “purely human and non-instinctive”, for unlike our innate ability to walk, such a hominid mechanism of complex thought-expression is a learned skill achieved through culture. This exclusively human ability is essential to one’s core identity, as explored by Chicana cultural theorist Gloria Anzaldua in How to Tame a Wild Tongue, in which she recalls being rejected for her native bilingual tongue by native Mexicans and White Americans, unable to fit in with either culture. Here, we see that language is a unique expression of identity -- adaptive and Taoist in its nature in that tone, diction, vocabulary, and dialect are manifestations of one’s emotions, personality,…show more content…
Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran wrote in his book Anathemas and Admirations, “One does not inhabit a country; one inhabits a language. That is our country, our fatherland – and no other.” It is then no surprise that much like the ancient world kingdoms who destroyed idols and devastated a region’s inhabitants to erase their conquered foes’ identities, we see the “definers” in Beloved attempt to suppress the language that which the “defined” inhabits. Cioran’s radical, etymological awareness of how language can shape our identity, society, and perception of the world – our Plato’s cave -- is explored in detail through theories of linguistic relativity. For example, how native English speakers perceive the time continuum as horizontal as a result of front/back terminology (e.g. “The past is now behind us”) whereas native Mandarin speakers perceive time as vertical as a result of up/down terminology, looking up to the future and down to the past (Boroditsky). Linguistic relativity is often seen as a grounded, or “weak”, version of the now widely disregarded Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. But while the hypothesis is not scientific fact, it’s exploration of language and societal-building correlation provide a philosophical, Malcolm Gladwell-esque observation of the world. The use of language as a means of controlling perception of the world in Beloved takes root in our real-world history with the

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