Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Patricia E. Erickson
Edward Sapir (1884–1939) and Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897–1941) developed the idea known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Sapir and Whorf posited that the particular language we speak influences the way we see reality because categories and distinctions encoded in one language are not always available in another language (linguistic relativity). Scholars also interpret the hypothesis as standing for the proposition that differences in the structure of languages produce differences in how people think (linguistic determinism). However, neither theorist specified exactly the relationship between language and thought; that is, whether he believed that language determines thinking or just influences it. Consequently, because of its lack of specificity, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis has been a controversial idea since its inception in the 1920s and 1930s. Scholars in a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, education, linguistics, philosophy, and psychology, have disagreed about the role of language in thinking and how Sapir and Whorf intended to ...