Benjamin Lee Whorf

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The latter conclusion goes in line with the theory of linguistic relativity formulated by the American researchers Franz Boas, Edward Sapir and most significantly by Benjamin Lee Whorf (Marina 2003) and known as "Sapir-Whorf hypothesis." Stuart Chase, in his forewor to Whorf 's "Language, thought, and reality" summarizes the theory of the latter as follows: "Speakers of different languages see the Cosmos differently, evaluate it differently, sometimes not by much, sometimes widely.
The hypothesis was first fully articulated and defended by Benjamin Lee Whorf, as an extension of the work of his mentor, Edward Sapir.
Selected Writings Of Benjamin Lee Whorf. London/New York: The Technology Press of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, 134-159.
Nonetheless, the idea that the thinking is dependent on language and that the language influences our understanding of the world around us was developed by and is usually associated with Benjamin Lee Whorf.
Lum has assembled a wonderful introduction to and discussion of the key figures on whose thought the media ecology group draws: Neil Postman, Lewis Mumford, Jacques Ellul, Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, James Carey, Benjamin Lee Whorf, Susanne Langer, Eric Havelock, and Walter O ng.
In this article, we adopt the perspective of Benjamin Lee Whorf quoted by Steiner (1998:92) when he said: "we dissect nature along the lines laid down by our native language." This means then, that, in order to grasp the scientific and technological phenomena replete in our environment, we would need a lexicological framework designed to permit the creation of technical words in a technological direction.
Some linguists, such as Benjamin Lee Whorf (1993: 240-244), have warned against the dangers of ascribing a semi-fictitious isolation to parts of experience through words.
Reprinted in Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf John Carroll ed, (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1956), 247-248.