Would you explain the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of language and culture and say why one might agree with it?

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Karyth Cara | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Though Sapir and Whorf never collaborated the particular "mould theory" that is attributed to their names posits that objective reality is not stable in its conceptualizations and that these conceptualizations are moulded by the social agreements about language and the conceptualizations embedded in the language. As an example, a native American and a Puritan would have looked at a sycamore tree and seen a bark covered trunk and large leaves with three serrated points. Yet the Native American would have seen it as an animated entity with power of its own that produced a kinship between observed and observer while the Puritan would have seen it as building material and fuel and possibly as an obstacle to agriculture. Their differing words for the sycamore would reflect their differing conceptualizations while continuing to embed a distinct cultural conceptualization. In other words, language shapes--or at the least in the weak version influences--culture and is not merely the expression of culture. One has reason to agree because of the changes being enacted in American language and culture at the present time: The more one listen to the language and attitudes expressed in public media (especially music, Internet, and movies) the more one conceptualizes our society in accord with the expressions with the result that language then further reinforces the first expressions.


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