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Sapir- Whorf hypothesis Essay

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is the idea that the difference in language limits and affects our thought process to only the language one speaks, therefore, not depicting the world and culture in ways others that different languages may perceive it. Sapir created this hypothesis while his student, Whorf, was the one who popularized it. This theory depicts the idea that language constricts one to only their way of life and would not be able see things in the same aspect that someone of a different language or culture may view said world. It is saying that what you see is what you say and therefore one may depict things differently because of perception. Because language is not only the main basis of culture, it influences and also determines ones thoughts. This means that the world is perceived differently by members of communities because language limits the perception of people’s views. The Sapir- Whorf hypothesis has two different views to it.

One view can be viewed as “strong” which means that language determines thought and linguistic categories limit cognitive categories while the “weak’ version of the hypothesis says only that linguistic categories and usage influence thought and certain kinds of non-linguistic behavior. These categories of “strong” and “weak” are just some ways that the Sapir- Whorf theory can be viewed. The Sapir- Whorf hypothesis can also be viewed two different ways; it can be linguistic determinism or linguistic relativism. Although this view may be similar in many ways, the distinction is a big factor in what the hypothesis itself means. Linguistic determinism is the idea that language and its structure limits human knowledge and thought while also hindering one’s perception. The term implies that people of different languages have different thought processes.

Because people have different perceptions due to difference in language, communication is made harder and near impossible. Linguistic relativism is the idea that an individual’s experiences and habitual language depict the world for them. This means that because of one’s community and their culture, their experiences influence their perception and thoughts that they use in present day. Experiences that one may experience can have a big impact on the way they communicate to others. The Sapir- Whorf hypothesis is mainly viewed as linguistic relativism. It can be viewed as linguistic relativism because the hypothesis states how humans do not live in the world alone or individually.

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