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Scotia Mullin

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Over the last couple of weeks, I took the time to sit down and read and a quote from within the book caught my eye. The author suggested that “One must be careful with books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” (Clare, 2011). This quote stuck with me and I feel that it creates a fascinating and distinct link to linguistic anthropology. This quote in particular I feel draws a close connection to the Sapir-Whorf theory that we have been learning about in class.

The Sapir-Whorf theory suggests that the language that one speaks influences how the person perceives the world. I think that in some circumstances this argument is incredibly valid as words have so much untapped power, they allow us to experience sadness or heartache. They can make us happy or insecure or angry, and I think that the way in which we use language has a direct impact on our everyday lives and experiences. An example that is used is a number of words employed in various languages to describe an object. An example from our book suggests that defining the characteristics for camels will have a plethora of words in a language spoken by Bedouins compares to that of American English speakers. Whorf contends that this is due to the need for such descriptive words changes in each language (Adachi et al, 2015, 316).

Without language communication and life would be entirely different. As a speaker of English the way in which I perceive the world will alter the way, a Chinese or Afghani person sees the world. I think some of this can be attributed to our use of language and the experience one gets out of life. However, much like the criticism of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, I believe that individual cultural differences will also influence how one sees the world as each culture has its own views, values, and expectations. Other criticisms that have challenged the validity of the Sapir-Whorf theory is that we can translate between languages and that bilingualism is possible and there is some overlap between “linguistic worlds” of different languages as well as another phenomenon like loan words (Adachi et al., 2015, 315).

Overall I find the concepts and ideas of the Sapir-Whorf theory incredibly interesting, however, must also consciously access is validity is what we know in modern linguistic anthropology.

Works Cited

Adachi, N., Salzmann, Z., & Stanlaw, J. (2015). Language, Culture, and Society (6th ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Clare, C. (2011). Clockwork Angel. Waterville, Me.: Thorndike Press.
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