Whorf, Benjamin Lee

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Whorf, Benjamin Lee

(hwôrf), 1897–1941, American linguist and anthropologist, b. Winthrop, Mass. Although he was trained in chemical engineering and worked for an insurance company, Whorf made substantial contributions to Mayan and Aztec linguisticslinguistics,
scientific study of language, covering the structure (morphology and syntax; see grammar), sounds (phonology), and meaning (semantics), as well as the history of the relations of languages to each other and the cultural place of language in human behavior.
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. He collaborated with Edward SapirSapir, Edward
, 1884–1939, American linguist and anthropologist, b. Pomerania. Sapir was brought to the United States in 1889. After teaching at the Univ. of California and the Univ.
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 at Yale Univ. in anthropological linguistics, and helped to develop the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis. Also known as the linguistic relativity principle, the theory argues against the view that the categories and distinctions of any given language are natural and given by external reality. Instead, it posits language as a finite array of formal (lexical and grammatical) categories that group an infinite variety of experiences into usable classes, vary across cultures, and, as a guide to the interpretation of experiences, influence thought.

Bibliography

See Whorf's selected writings, Language, Thought, and Reality (1959).

Whorf, Benjamin Lee

 

Born Apr. 24, 1897, in Winthrop, Mass.; died July 26, 1941, in Wethersfield, Conn. American linguist and anthropologist.

Whorf graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1918 as a chemical engineer. In 1926 he began to study the relationship between language and thought, as well as the American Indian and Semitic languages. His early works dealt with the decipherment and linguistic interpretation of the Maya writing system, which in his innovative view was based partly on a phonetic principle. Under the influence of E. Sapir and as a result of his own studies of the Uto-Aztecan languages (especially Hopi), Whorf formulated a hypothesis of linguistic relativity that became known as the Whorfian hypothesis. Whorf contributed to the theory of grammatical categories in that he was the first to differentiate overt and covert categories in language.

WORKS

The Phonetic Value of Certain Characters in Maya Writing. Cambridge, Mass., 1933.
Language, Thought, and Reality, 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass., 1966.

REFERENCE

Zvegintsev, V. A. “Teoretiko-lingvisticheskie predposylki gipotezy Sepira-Uorfa.” In the collection Novoe v lingvistike, fasc. 1. Moscow, 1960.

Whorf, Benjamin Lee

(1897–1941) linguist, chemical engineer; born in Winthrop, Mass. After receiving his B.S. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1918), he began a lucrative lifelong career at the Hartford Fire Insurance Company (1919–41), where he specialized in fire hazards and prevention. In 1925 he renewed a childhood interest in Central America and in 1930 he traveled to Mexico. In 1931 he enrolled in Edward Sapir's American Indian linguistics course at Yale University. Through his work in comparative linguistics in studies of Hebrew, Mayan, Aztec, and Hopi languages and cultures, he developed the "Whorf-Sapir hypothesis"—that the grammatical structure of a language affects the culture of its speakers by conditioning the ways in which they think.
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1) Further, Benjamin Whorf asserted that, "we dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages .
Benjamin Whorf (1956), an American specialist on Indian languages, has stated that a language shapes our thoughts.
Arsuzi's theory, namely, that the structure of Arabic determines how the native speaker of Arabic thinks and that Arabic expresses our underlying world view, finds support in the controversial theories of Benjamin Whorf, who posited that the grammar of any given language determines how the native speaker of that language thinks about, perceives, and analyzes his environment.
You hear it in the structure of his sentences, the deep grammar that mirrors what we cannot see, if Benjamin Whorf is right that a view of nature and the universe is implicit in the structure of language.
This CD-ROM contains book and article-length works plus a number of unpublished writings by Benjamin Whorf, the student and colleague of linguist and anthropologist Edward Sapir who along with Whorf formulated the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (also known as the theory of linguistic relativity) which postulates that a particular language's nature influences the habitual thought of its speakers: different language patterns yield different patterns of thought.