The Sapir Whorf Hypothesis And Arguments For And Against It

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For all humans, language is the most common means of communication with others and it enables us to share our experiences and stories and to tell about our needs and feelings. For example, Yamamoto states that sociolinguistics see, it is ‘primarily through the use of language that people communicate with each other’ (1979: 146). We all speak one or more languages and as the main way of communication it is an important and vital part of our lives. There is many languages in the world and they differ from one another in many ways. But does the language we speak reflect to the way we see and experience the world around us? This paper will explore the question through the Sapir Whorf hypothesis and arguments for and against it.
The Sapir Whorf hypothesis mentioned above is based on the ideas of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf who studied aboriginal languages among Native American tribes, mostly the Hopi. They believed that the language one speaks is directly related to the way they understand the reality and see the world. For example, Whorf once wrote ‘we dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages’ (Whorf cited in Salzmann 1993: 153) which led to Zdenek Salzmann’s conclusion of Whorf’s ideas: ‘Difference among languages must therefore be reflected in the differences in the worldviews of their speakers’ (1993: 156). This hypothesis has been challenged many times by several anthropologists and linguists and there are arguments and evidence for and against it.
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