SAGE Reference - Linguistic-Relativity Hypothesis

Schultz EA. 1990. Dialogue at the Margins. Whod Bakhtin, and Linguistic Relativity.

Does the Linguistic Theory at the Center of ..

Such a full linguistic relativity proposal should be distinguished from sev- eral partial or more encompassing formulations that are widely prevalent. First, linguistic relativity is not the same as linguistic diversity. Without the re- lation to thought more generally (i.e. beyond that necessary for the act of speaking itself), it is merely linguistic diversity. Second, linguistic relativity is not the same as any influence of language on thought. Without the relation to differences among languages, we just have a common psychological mecha- nism shared by all (an effect at the semiotic level). Third, linguistic relativity is not the same as cultural relativity, which encompasses the full range of pat- terned, historically transmitted differences among communities. Linguistic relativity proposals emphasize a distinctive role for language structure in inter- preting experience and influencing thought. Although such a relativity may contribute to a broader cultural relativity, it may also crosscut it. Sometimes the various elements can be technically present in a formulation but inappro- priately filled. One can take as representative of language some aspect so bleached of meaning value (e.g. prefixing versus postfixing) that no interest- ing semantic differences suggest themselves. Or one can confound the ele- ments by using verbal responses to assess thought or verbal stimulus materials to represent reality. Thus, in evaluating research, it is important to ask whether the various components of the hypothesis have all been represented and appro- priately filled. Most existing research fails in this regard and therefore cannot address the hypothesis directly and decisively.

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis | Define Sapir-Whorf hypothesis …

Structure-centered approaches are susceptible to several characteristic weaknesses. It is difficult to establish terms of comparison because one of the aims is to avoid taking any language or its construal of reality as a privileged frame of reference. This often leaves the proper characterization of the lan- guage pattern and of the reality at issue very underdetermined. Second, the complexity and specificity of the linguistic analysis can make comparison be- yond the initial languages difficult. One practical remedy to these problems is to adopt a typological approach from the outset in characterizing the language structures and to focus particularly on referential structures where the recur- rent meaning values can be more readily operationalized. In demonstrating an influence on thought, studies adopting this approach also often have difficulty providing rigorous demonstrations of significant effects, not because it is not possible but because the whole approach favors a more ethnographically rich and fluid interpretive approach.

There are a variety of specific linguistic relativity proposals, but all share three key elements linked in two relations. They all claim that certain properties of a given language have consequences for patterns of thought about reality. The properties of language at issue are usually morphosyntactic (but may be pho- nological or pragmatic) and are taken to vary in important respects. The pattern of thought may have to do with immediate perception and attention, with per- sonal and social-cultural systems of classification, inference, and memory, or with aesthetic judgment and creativity. The reality may be the world of every- day experience, of specialized contexts, or of ideational tradition. These three key elements are linked by two relations: Language embodies an interpreta- tion of reality and language can influence thought about that reality. The inter- pretation arises from the selection of substantive aspects of experience and their formal arrangement in the verbal code. Such selection and arrangement is, of course, necessary for language, so the crucial emphasis here is that each language involves a particular interpretation, not a common, universal one. An influence on thought ensues when the particular language interpretation guides or supports cognitive activity and hence the beliefs and behaviors dependent on it. Accounts vary in the specificity of the proposed mechanism of influence and in the degree of power attributed to it-the strongest version being a strict linguistic determinism (based, ultimately, on the identity of language and thought). A proposal of linguistic relativity thus claims that diverse interpreta- tions of reality embodied in languages yield demonstrable influences on thought. [Hill & Mannheim (1992, pp. 383-87) discuss and endorse various criticisms of treating the relativity issue as a "hypothesis" about three discrete, identifiable, and orthogonal "variables." But if there is any interesting claim here, it is about discoverable relations between distinguishable phenomena. They implicitly acknowledge this by adopting a formulation that fits the model given here (cf Levinson 1996, p. 196).]


A linguist on Arrival's alien language. - Slate Magazine

This European work was known and criticized by scholars in North Amer- ica (Aarsleff 1988, Koerner 1992), and the same impulses found histori- cally-the patent relevance of language to human sociality and intellect, the reflexive concern with the role of language in intellectual method, and the practical encounter with diversity-remain important today in motivating at- tention to the problem. But the linguistic relativity proposal received new im- petus and reformulation there in the early twentieth century, particularly in the work of anthropological linguists Edward Sapir (1949a,b, 1964) and Benjamin

Time | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

A number of recent publications have extensively reviewed the relevant social-science literature on linguistic relativity. Lucy (1992a) examines the historical and conceptual development of empirical research on the relation of language diversity and thought within the fields of linguistic anthropology and comparative psycholinguistics. Hill & Mannheim (1992) survey work on lan- guage and world view in anthropology, sorting out the main traditions (espe- cially new work centered on interpretation and discourse) and indicating their connections with broader trends in anthropology. Hunt & Agnoli (1991) pro- vide an overview of current concerns from the perspective of cognitive psy- chology. Finally, Gumperz & Levinson (1996) provide an eclectic overview and sampling of many of the newest directions of inquiry, again with substan- tial attention to discourse-level issues.

Time has been studied for thousands of years

SPATIAL ORIENTATION The most successful effort at a domain-centered ap- proach has been undertaken by a research team under the direction of Stephen Levinson at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics that has been ex- ploring the domain of space. The larger agenda of the project has been to cri- tique the excessive reliance on English and other European languages in the field of cognitive science. Space was chosen as a domain because it has been widely regarded as invariant within philosophical, psychological, and linguis- tic circles and yet appeared to exhibit cross-linguistic variation (Haviland 1993, Levinson 1996a; see also Brown & Levinson 1993b, Levinson & Brown 1994). For example, speakers of modern European languages tend to favor the use of body coordinates to describe arrangements of objects (e.g. the man is to the left of the tree). For similar situations, speakers of other languages such as Guugu Yiimithirr (Australian) and Tzeltal (Mayan) favor systems anchored as cardinal direction terms or topographic features respectively (e.g. the man is to the east/uphill of the tree).