language,_thought,_and_representation._language,_society,_and_power_pp._18-33_(17)

Language,_thought,_and_representation._language,_society,_and_power_pp._18-33_(17)

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Language, thought and representation 2.1 Introduction 18 2.2 Saussure and language as a representational 2.3 The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis 2.4 One language, many worlds 2.5 Summary Suggestions for further reading 17
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2.1 Introduction On 2 July 2001, three underground trains on the London Victoria line were halted in a tunnel, where they remained for over an hour. Passengers had to be evacuated, and over six hundred treated for heat exhaustion - a conse- quence, it seemed, of too little ventilation and too many people. An investigation was subsequently launched into what was termed 'overcrowding' on underground trains. On 23 January 2003, however, London Underground officially stated that there was 'no such thing as an overcrowded Tube train', since the term meant 'excess over a defined limit', and no restriction on passenger numbers had ever been set (London Metro, 24 January 2003: 11). Trains could therefore only ever be crowded and there was subsequently no I cause for alarm. I Such examples of linguistic sleight-of-hand are not uncommon. Indeed, many of us are very aware of similar types of 'trickery' in advertising, news reporting and even (or especially?) political speeches. The fact that it is so I common implies a perceived link between how we talk about things and how we construe them: London Underground, for example, chose to represent conditions on the train in a way that not only mitigates their responsibility to passengers but also potentially alleviates fears about commuter safety. A similar example arose in the 1990s when the tobacco industry in Britain was accused of not explic~tly warning consumers of the dangers of low-tar cigarettes, which were instead marketed as a 'healthier' alternative to the stan- dard, high-tar varieties. A spokesperson for the anti-tobacco league stated in a radio interv~ew that such 'irresponsible advertising' was akin to telling people that they'd be safer jumping out of a second, rather than fifth, storey window. It's not just people in the public eye who exploit the links between language use and perception. All language users can, and do, make similar it has even been argued that such alternative 'angles on reality' ex~st not only within the resources of individual languages but also between languages them- selves. The following sections explore both of these ideas, and we begin by looking at a well-known theory of language as a representational system devised by Ferdinand de Saussure. Section 2 3 then looks at the premises of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which poslts a relationship between experience,
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1 LANGUAGE, THOUGHT AND REPRESENTATION and language, and section 2.4 discusses examples of 'angles of telling' within one language. 2.2
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This note was uploaded on 09/09/2011 for the course ANTHRO 194 taught by Professor Kailakuban during the Fall '09 term at UMass (Amherst).

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Language,_thought,_and_representation._language,_society,_and_power_pp._18-33_(17)

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