Culture Language and Perceptions and Point of View Use the article under Information section entitled, Preliminaries, to answer the following questions over Culture, Language and the forming of Perceptions and Point of View (POV). ( The article: see the attached document)
1. What does Sapir mean by … “language is a guide to social reality” ?
2. What does Whorf mean by … “linguistic relativity” ?
3. Discuss what is meant by our own language predisposing us to see both reality and other languages through a filter.
4. What effect could these theories have on written text across cultures?
Grading Notes for ALL Papers:
Grammar and Structure do matter
Pay attention to Tone & Diction, use formal language for academic work unless otherwise instructed.
Watch Organization and Structure within each sentence and paragraph.
Re-read your work Before you turn it in!
You do not need to include a title pg. or headings unless I indicate it in the essay instructions.
You must ALWAYS cite your sources, preferably on a separate reference page.
When citing, use APA or MLA format. If you are not sure, look them up, or, review them. ASK!
I recommend using the format that your major/discipline will use in your work setting so that you begin to learn it.
Good reference for citing: Rules for Writers, Diane Hacker & Nancy Sommers Preliminaries
It seems fairly evident that the selection of such simple terms must
to a certain extent depend upon the chief interests of a people; and
where it is necessary to distinguish a certain phenomenon in many
aspects, which in the life of the people play each an entirely independent
role, many independent words may develop, while in other cases
modifications of a single term may suffice.
thus it happens that each language, from the point of view of another
language, may be arbitrary in its classification; that what appears as a
single simple idea in one language may be characterized by a series of
distinct phonetic groups in another. (Boas 1966:22)
Boas observed that the effect of this was largely unconscious because the use of language
is largely an automatic process which we do not normally pause to reflect on.
These observations open the debate in this literature about the relationship between
language, culture and thought. To what extent does the particular language we speak
determine the way that we think about the world? Perhaps Boas’s most famous student is
the anthropologist and linguist Edward Sapir; in the following quotation, we see him
proposing the view that the particular language we speak conditions our
conceptualization of the world:
Language is a guide to “social reality”…Human beings do not
live in the objective world alone, nor along in the world of social
activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy
of the particular language which has become the medium of
expression for their society…the “real world” is to a large extent
unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group. No
two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as
representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different
societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with
different labels attached…
We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do
Because the language habits of our community predispose certain
Choices of interpretation…From this standpoint we may think of
Language as the symbolic guide to culture. (Sapir 1949b: 162)
It seems fair to say that Sapir had a stronger view of the determining role of language
than Boas. Stronger still are the views of Benjamin Lee Whorf, a linguist well-known for
his work on native American languages, especially the Uto-Aztecan languages of the
south west United States and Mexico. Whorf strengthened this idea of the link between
language and thought into the notion he called linguistic relativity. Its basic premise is
that the way we think about the world is determined by our cultural and linguistic
We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and scribe significances
as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way – an agreement that holds through our speech
community and is codified in the patterns of our language. The
agreement is, of course, an implicit and unstated one, BUT ITS
TERMS ARE ABSOLUTELY OBLIGATORY; we cannot talk at
all except by subscribing to the organization and classification of
data which the agreement decrees. (Whorf 1956: 213-214)
Whorf’s observation is not restricted to word meaning; indeed, he believed that meanings
derived from grammatical systems (e.g. notions of number and space in nouns, or aspect
and tense in verbs) were even stronger determinants of thought. The idea is that speakers
can reflect on word meanings but grammatical systems are largely unavailable to
If this view is correct then our own language predisposes us to see both reality
and other languages through its own filter. This would have serious implications for the
prospects of a universal semantic theory. It might mean that we could always, with some
difficulty and inexactitude, translate from one language to another. But if speaking
different languages means that we think in different ways, how could we ever step
outside our own language to set up a neutral metalanguage which does not privilege any
particular language or language family? Such metalanguages are of course the basis for
theories in other areas of linguistics like syntax or phonology.
** taken from: “Meaning, Thought and Reality” pgs. 42 – 43
College-Level Writing Rubric
Engaging and full
development of a clear
thesis as appropriate to
Competent and welldeveloped thesis; thesis
represents sound and
of the assigned topic.
Mostly intelligible ideas;
thesis is weak, unclear,
too broad, or only
Mostly simplistic and
unfocused ideas; little or
no sense of purpose or
control of thesis.
confusion about the
topic or inability to grasp
it; thus conspicuous
absence of thesis and
lack of purpose.
Consistent evidence with
originality and depth of
ideas; ideas work
together as a unified
whole; main points are
(with evidence); support
is valid and specific.
Organization is sequential
and appropriate to
are well developed and
ideas linked with smooth
and effective transitions.
sufficiently; support is
sound, valid, and
Main points and ideas
are only indirectly
supported; support isn’t
sufficient or specific, but
is loosely relevant to
Insufficient, nonspecific, and/or
Ideas are extremely
signs of confusion,
misunderstanding of the
prompt; thesis is
essentially missing or
Lack of support for main
points; frequent and
structure; lacking in
Limited attempts to
organize around a
thesis; paragraphs are
with weak or nonevident transitions.
Organization, if evident
at all, is confusing and
structure is weak;
transitions are missing,
does not exist; or is a
paragraph or series of
Clear discernment of
distinctive audience; tone
appropriate to the
Effective and accurate
awareness of general
audience; tone and
Little or inconsistent
sense of audience
related to assignment
purpose; tone and
point-of-view not refined
Each sentence structured
rich, well-chosen variety
of sentence styles and
Formulaic or tedious
shows some errors in
Lacks awareness of a
assignment; tone and
inappropriate or very
Simple sentences used
errors of sentence
No evident awareness
of audience as
Contains multiple and
serious errors of
sentence structure: i.e.,
Unable to write simple
Virtually free of
appropriate format and
Effective and varied
sentences; errors (if
any) due to lack of
syntax errors (if any)
reflect uses as
Few formatting errors.
Most errors likely
and formulaic. No
evident transitions or
Shows almost no
awareness of a
reveals no grasp of
appropriate tone and/or
point-of-view for given
Sentences show errors
of structure; little or no
variety; no grasp of
errors. Several errors in
formatting or formatting
Contains many errors of
Errors interfere with
meaning in places.
Formatting incorrect in
Contains many and
serious errors of
errors severely interfere
range, accuracy, and
correct and effective word
Good vocabulary range
and accuracy of usage.
range, mostly accurate;
some vernacular terms.
Errors of diction, and
usage, while evident, do
not interfere with
lack grasp of diction;
usage is inaccurate.
Frequent errors in
and /or inaccurate
hindered. No formatting
as appropriate to
Diction and syntax
meaningless or very
confusing at best.
Saint Mary’s College ~ School of Extended Education (Melanie Booth, Learning Resource Program)
Clear absence of
support for main points.
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