The logical structure of linguistic theory pdf

The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ world view or cognition. Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined to include two versions. The strong version says that language determines thought, and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories, whereas the weak version says that linguistic categories and usage only influence thought and decisions. Whorf hypothesis” is considered a misnomer by linguists for several reasons: The logical structure of linguistic theory pdf Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf never co-authored any works, and never stated their ideas in terms of a hypothesis.


Sapir and Whorf never set up such a dichotomy, although often in their writings their views of this relativity principle are phrased in stronger or weaker terms. The idea was first clearly expressed by 19th-century thinkers, such as Wilhelm von Humboldt, who saw language as the expression of the spirit of a nation.

Members of the early 20th-century school of American anthropology headed by Franz Boas and Edward Sapir also embraced forms of the idea to one extent or another, including in a 1928 meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, but Sapir in particular wrote more often against than in favor of anything like linguistic determinism. Sapir’s student, Benjamin Lee Whorf, came to be seen as the primary proponent as a result of his published observations of how he perceived linguistic differences to have consequences in human cognition and behavior. Whorf hypothesis”, even though the two scholars never formally advanced any such hypothesis.

A strong version of relativist theory was developed from the late 1920s by the German linguist Leo Weisgerber. Whorf’s principle of linguistic relativity was reformulated as a testable hypothesis by Roger Brown and Eric Lenneberg who conducted experiments designed to find out whether color perception varies between speakers of languages that classified colors differently.

As the study of the universal nature of human language and cognition came into focus in the 1960s the idea of linguistic relativity fell out of favor among linguists. A 1969 study by Brent Berlin and Paul Kay demonstrated the existence of universal semantic constraints in the field of colour terminology which were widely seen to discredit the existence of linguistic relativity in this domain, although this conclusion has been disputed by relativist researchers. From the late 1980s, a new school of linguistic relativity scholars has examined the effects of differences in linguistic categorization on cognition, finding broad support for non-deterministic versions of the hypothesis in experimental contexts. Some effects of linguistic relativity have been shown in several semantic domains, although they are generally weak.

Currently, a balanced view of linguistic relativity is espoused by most linguists holding that language influences certain kinds of cognitive processes in non-trivial ways, but that other processes are better seen as arising from connectionist factors. Research is focused on exploring the ways and extent to which language influences thought. The principle of linguistic relativity and the relation between language and thought has also received attention in varying academic fields from philosophy to psychology and anthropology, and it has also inspired and coloured works of fiction and the invention of constructed languages.

The strongest form of the theory is linguistic determinism, which holds that language entirely determines the range of cognitive processes. The hypothesis of linguistic determinism is now generally agreed to be false. This is the weaker form, proposing that language provides constraints in some areas of cognition, but that it is by no means determinative.

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