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.


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.


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


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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Whorf (1897-1941) came to linguistics from chemical engineering and also worked as a fire prevention inspector and a fire insurance executive (p.
Whorf which says that what is expressed by a single word in one language may have several names in another (Lucy 1992: 87).
It is not simply that Sapir was more cautious in his speculation than Whorf: Sapir was vigorously speculative but at the same time far more circumspect than Whorf in his estimate of the rule of language in the formation of ideas.
Further, Benjamin Whorf, an American linguist widely known for his ideas about linguistic relativity, asserted that, "we dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages.
Whorf was a student of Edward Sapir in the 1930s, and absorbed from his mentor both an interest in Native American languages and the conviction that Einstein's principle of relativity had a parallel in the linguistic realm, a sort of relativity of concepts.
The familiar "Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis" indicates that language is a guide to culture and social reality (Sapir 1931; Whorf 1959).
While Will Rogers' simplicity appealed to everyone, the linguistic theories of Benjamin Lee Whorf initially challenged the best of minds with their intricate formulas and hypotheses.
Den Begriff SAE fuhrte Benjamin Lee Whorf 1939 in die Sprachwissenschaft ein, als er Indianersprachen aus Amerika mit bekannten Sprachen aus Westeuropa verglich.
Linguistically, the term has fostered inclusive and neutral language, based on the Sapir Whorf hypothesis that a language's grammatical categories can shape the speaker's ideas and actions.
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Content analysis is a research methodology that recognises the importance of language in human cognition (Sapir 1944, Whorf 1956).