They are first divided by the kind of use they are

This preview shows page 2 - 4 out of 6 pages.

they are first divided by the kind of use they are put to - and then some of those are divided by the material they are used on - if you asked English speakers and Spanish speakers to lump some of these items by similarity, they would respond with different groupings - because their languages categorize the objects according to different characteristics - so the speakers focus on the characteristics that their language singles out as most important - So what? - this goes beyond an arbitrary naming game - it actually affects how people lump and split the perceptions of their world - what things they consider to be “the same” and “different” - what characteristics they consider more or less fundamental or important - each system of categorizing is an arbitrary cultural construct - which is embedded in the language - surely that must affect how they think about the world - Language and thought: The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis - the claim (still controversial): the language one speaks affects how one perceives and thinks about the world - because each language gives you a particular set of categories (morphemes) to work with, and not others - certain things you must pay attention to, and not others - and certain ideas about how they can be combined, and not others - so some thoughts will be more obvious, easy, or natural in some languages than in others - people who speak and think in one language may think differently than people who speak and think in a different language - recent studies suggest that bilingual people actually think and respond to questions differently depending on which language they are using! - this idea is more properly called linguistic relativism - like cultural relativism, which holds that thought and behavior make sense in their cultural context, that is, they are shaped by the culture they are immersed in… - linguistic relativism suggests that thought and behavior may be shaped by the language they are carried out in - One aspect of linguistic relativism is based on vocabulary: the categories (words) of a language, which define how people split up experience into categories of things - the claim (again, controversial) that a language’s particular set of categories (words) affect how people perceive and think of the world - Benjamin Lee Whorf’s famous “empty gas drum” example
Image of page 2

Subscribe to view the full document.

Intro to Cultural Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Language and thought p. 3 - in English, we have words for full and empty - they focus on the intended or principal contents of the container - an empty milk bottle might still have a few drops at the bottom, or a film on the sides. It is nevertheless called “empty” - an empty garbage can may still contain a stink - we have no single word for “empty of main contents but still containing residue” - so a pile of gas drums with no fuel but full of flammable fumes can be marked “empty” - leading to inappropriate behavior and explosions - if English had a commonly used word for “empty of main contents but still containing residue”, then Whorf’s hypothetical watchman would never make this mistake - he would not be more or less smart or careful - the difference in his thinking and behavior would be due only to the language he used -
Image of page 3
Image of page 4
You've reached the end of this preview.

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern