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Extended Annotated Bibliography - Essay Example

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The Sapir-Whorf theory is considered controversial and downright wrong in linguistics, and theoreticians will go to great lengths to refute Whorf’s ideas. Linguistic relativity says that the language we use shapes how we think about things in the world; in other words, reality…
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Download file to see previous pages Whorf’s idea was more that some speakers have power over others and by extension power over the world, to shape the world with their words. This type of thinking makes people very uncomfortable because they would like to believe that political correctness and the fact that all humans are the same down deep is reality. Whorf himself did not set out to create a controversy in linguistics. He simply followed ideas to see where they would end up. Cameron asserts that Whorf did not set out to create controversy and may not even have held some of the ideas he is given credit for.
Kodish explains that human speakers are in an eternal loop of creating language, changing reality, creating language, changing reality and so on. Reality and language are intertwined, and neither directly creates the other but they co-create perception. In a group of people, the same objective reality will be perceived differently by each individual because of the language system he or she speaks. This type of relativism is important because it also shapes how humans think about things; in other words, learning a new (foreign) word for an object or concept only barely changes our perception of the object or concept. An example that Kodish cites is the Eskimo words for snow controversy; Whorf actually wrote that the Eskimos have three words for snow, not dozens, but because of this expanded language capability they thought about snow differently from European-Americans. Linguistic relativity simply means that humans understand what we do about the world because we have words to describe those things. Kodish also discusses linguistic determinism, which is the prevailing theory currently; determinism says that the biological base of language determines its eventual structure. Kodish asserts that neither Sapir nor Whorf ever put forth what is now known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
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