(e.g. days, years), their formal structuration in the grammar does not give rise to the abstract notion of 'time' that we have. In Whorf s view, grouping referents and concepts as analogically "the same" for the purposes of speech leads speakers to group those referents and concepts as "the same" for thought generally as evidenced by related cultural patterns of habitual belief and be- havior.
Aboriginal American Culture: A Study in Method laid out the method of historical inference implicit in the Boasian reconstruction of the history of cultures and languages. (At the time, direct archaeological evidence of American prehistory was scanty, and there were no consistent standards for its interpretation until the Pecos Conference a full decade later; indirect evidence, such as might be provided by linguistics and ethnology, was therefore crucial.) Drawing on linguistic examples from a remarkable range of cases, Sapir in Time Perspective distinguished methodologically between the properties of language and culture for historical reconstruction. Sound change in language, unlike the other parts of culture, he argued, retained traces of the past historical relationships of languages. In consequence, genetic relationships could be discerned and distinguished from other kinds of relationships by the application of methods used in Indo-European historical linguistics, even in the absence of written records. Sapir's treatise remained the ethnologist's guide to historical method for a generation and still repays careful attention to the forms of his logic.
Definition and Examples of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
One of the problems that most interested Sapir was the tension between the anthropologist's concern with abstracting cultural patterns from observable behavior and the individual participant's personal biography and subjective experience. In contrast to many other anthropologists of the time Sapir emphasized intracultural variability, disagreement, and individual agency. He distinguished carefully between, on the one hand, subjective meanings and experience, and, on the other, the public symbols and social conventions prescribing the forms a person's behavior takes. Although much interested in the relationships between culture and personality, Sapir criticized approaches which, in his view, failed to distinguish collective and individual levels of analysis, confusing conventional patterns of behavior with the personality patterns of actual individuals. Late in his life, influenced by his collaboration with Harry Stack Sullivan, Sapir began to look to the analysis of social interaction as the locus of cultural dynamics.
How much truth is there to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis…
ented argument in discussing the phoneme's "psychological reality," that is, the intuitions of Amerindian language speakers for their native language's phonological system. The level of generalization implicit in Sapir's distinction between phonetics and phonology in these papers, which revolutionized American linguistics, was derived from fieldwork with aboriginal languages independently of parallel work on phonemic models by the Prague School of linguists in Europe. A late (1938) paper of Sapir's on glottalized continuants pursued these phonological themes and is significant for its use of evidence from Amerindian languages alongside Indo-European data.
How much truth is there to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
on a paper read to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Although the 1929 version of this classification is better known and is accompanied by considerable justification, including a medial classification of twenty-three units acceptable even to conservatives among Amerindian linguists, the 1921 version was essentially complete. It was based on the comparative work Sapir and his colleagues had done over the past two decades. Although Sapir himself saw the classification as a series of working hypotheses, many anthropologists promptly reified its categories, latching onto the six-unit classification as an easy guide to tribal relationships.
is sometimes called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, ..
Sapir's discussions of the role of meaning in grammatical form and the relationships of these to the use of language in formulating and conveying ideas have been taken as his contribution to what is often called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. In fact the hypothesis was developed largely by his student Benjamin Lee Whorf after his mentor's death. But there are certainly intimations in Sapir's own writing of the way in which habitual thought might be influenced, if not determined, by linguistic structures.