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Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-U051-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 12, 2024, from

Article Summary

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is a widely used label for the linguistic relativity hypothesis, that is, the proposal that the particular language we speak shapes the way we think about the world. The label derives from the names of American anthropological linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, who persuasively argued for this idea during the 1930s and 1940s – although they never actually characterized their ideas as an ’hypothesis’. In contrast to earlier European scholarship concerned with linguistic relativity, their approach was distinguished by first-hand experience with native American languages and rejection of claims for the superiority of European languages.

Citing this article:
Lucy, John A.. Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-U051-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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