Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis



A theory of the relationship between language and thought expounded in its most explicit form by the American anthropological linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf. Also known as the theory of linguistic relativity, the hypothesis states (in the words of Whorf) that ‘we dissect nature along lines laid down by our native the linguistic systems in our minds.’ The differences in world-view imposed by different languages have, however, proved extremely difficult to elucidate or test experimentally, and the fact of successful bilingual translation weakens the force of the theory’s claims; as a result, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has made little impact on contemporary psycholinguistics.