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Sapir, Edward (1884–1939) By Norris, Christopher

DOI: 10.4324/0123456789-REM1833-1
Published: 26/04/2018
Retrieved: 13 June 2024, from


Linguist and anthropologist Edward Sapir is one of those thinkers whose fame has been increased but his full achievement somewhat underrated through association with just one idea. This is the ‘Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis’, jointly credited to Sapir and his student Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897–1941), according to which – on the received interpretation – the syntactic and semantic structures of language determine the conceptual and referential structures of thought. In this case, it would follow that speakers of different languages have different ontologies and inhabit different worlds, to the point where – if those differences are radical enough – there is simply no possibility of translation or mutual comprehension.

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Norris, Christopher. Sapir, Edward (1884–1939). Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, Taylor and Francis,

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