Language and Thought in Relation to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis Essay

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How would you describe the relationship between Language and Thought in relation to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? By David Kaneria The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is the linguistic theory that the semantic structure of a language shapes or even limits the way in which the speaker forms conceptions of the world. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis consists of two main parts; linguistic determinism that refers to the idea that language determines non-linguistic cognitive processes, and linguistic relativity, which claims that cognitive processes are distinct for separate languages. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis can also be broken down into three subsets. The first being the “strong version” which states that language directly determines thought. The second is named the “weak version” and states that language doesn’t determine thought but merely influences it. The final version is the “weakest version” and states that language affects mental processing (Sapir, 1929). Whorf provided a hypothetical example of this using oil drums; he stated that if the oil drums were labelled “full” people would act more carefully around them. However if they were labelled “empty” people would act in a different and more careless fashion even though the empty drums can be more dangerous in reality (Carroll, 1956, p. 135). This example was offered by Whorf as evidence of the power of words to influence our thought processes. Whorf also stated that this was a gradual process, based on previous experiences with the words that slowly seep into our mental framework. However, Whorf also stated that it is possible to avoid and change our thinking using a more active pattern of thought (Carroll, 1999, p. 367). The strong Whorfian view has long been discarded due to evidence from a New Guinea tribe who only have two colour terms and yet had no trouble in learning the names for English colour terms

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