Last modified on 12 April 2014, at 20:11

Edward Sapir

The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached

Edward Sapir (26 January 18844 February 1939) was an American anthropologist and linguist, a leader in American structural linguistics, and a pioneer of concepts in linguistic relativity as a creator of what is now called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. He is arguably the most influential figure in American linguistics.

SourcedEdit

Cultural anthropology is not valuable because it uncovers the archaic in the psychological sense. It is valuable because it is constantly rediscovering the normal.
  • Getting down to brass tacks, how in the Hell are you going to explain general American n- 'I' except genetically? It's disturbing, I know, but (more) non-committal conservatism is only dodging, after all, isn't it? Great simplifications are in store for us. ... It seems to me that only now that is American linguistics becoming really interesting, at least in its ethnological bearings.
    • In a letter dated August 1, 1918
  • Were a language ever completely "grammatical" it would be a perfect engine of conceptual expression. Unfortunately, or luckily, no language is tyrannically consistent. All grammars leak.
    • Language (1921), p. 38
  • Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the "real world" is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group. No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached ... We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.
    • The Status Of Linguistics As A Science (1929), p. 69
  • Fashion is custom in the guise of departure from custom.
    • Fashion (1931), p. 140
  • Human beings do not wish to be modest; they want to be as expressive — that is, as immodest — as fear allows; fashion helps them solve that paradoxical problem.
    • Fashion (1931), p. 140
  • Cultural anthropology is not valuable because it uncovers the archaic in the psychological sense. It is valuable because it is constantly rediscovering the normal.
    • Cultural Anthropology and Psychiatry (1932), p. 515
  • It would be naïve to imagine that any analysis of experience is dependent on pattern expressed in language. Any concept, whether or not it forms part of the system of grammatical categories, can be conveyed in any language. If a notion is lacking in a given series, it implies a different configuration and not a lack of expressive power.
    • "American Indian Grammatical Categories", edited by Morris Swadesh in Word, 2 (1946)

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