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Benjamin Whorf

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Benjamin Lee Whorf (April 24, 1897July 26, 1941) was an American linguist.

Born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, the son of Harry and Sarah (Lee) Whorf, Benjamin Lee Whorf graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1918 with a degree in chemical engineering and shortly afterwards began work as a fire prevention engineer (inspector) for the Hartford Fire Insurance Company, pursuing linguistic and anthropological studies as an avocation.

In 1931 he began studying linguistics at Yale University under the famed Edward Sapir. Sapir was impressed enough with Whorf to further support his academic interests and, in 1936, Whorf was appointed Honorary Research Fellow in Anthropology at Yale. In 1937 the university awarded him the Sterling Fellowship. He was a Lecturer in Anthropology from 1937 through 1938, when he began having serious health problems.

Although he never took up linguistics as a profession (he used to say that having an independent, non-academic source of income allowed him to better and more freely pursue his specific academic interests), his contributions to the field were, nevertheless, profound, and show repercussions to this day.

Whorf's primary area of interest in linguistics was the study of native American languages, particularly those of Mesoamerica. He became quite well known for his work on the Hopi language, and for a theory he called the principle of linguistic relativity. Developed in conjunction with Sapir (who had already published a version of it in 1929) it became more widely known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. He was considered to be a captivating speaker and did much to popularize his linguistic ideas through popular lectures and articles written to be accessible to lay readers, as well as publishing numerous technical articles.

Some of Whorf's early work on linguistics and particularly on linguistic relativity was inspired by the reports he wrote on insurance losses, where misunderstanding had been a cause. In one famous example, an employee who was not a native speaker of English had placed drums of liquid near a heater, believing that as a 'flammable' liquid would burn then a 'highly inflammable' one would not. His papers and lectures featured examples from both his insurance work and his fieldwork with Hopi and other American languages.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis primarily dealt with the way that language affects thought. Also sometimes called the Whorfian hypothesis (much to Whorf's disapproval) this theory claims that the language a person speaks (independent of the culture in which he or she resides) affects the way that he or she thinks, meaning that the structure of the language itself affects cognition.

Less well known, but important, are his contributions to the study of the Nahuatl and Maya languages. He claimed that Nahuatl was an oligosynthetic language (a claim that would be brought up again some twenty years later by Morris Swadesh, another controversial American linguist, and, more recently, by the Mexican linguist Ernst Herrera Legorreta). Regarding Maya, he focused on the linguistic nature of the Mayan writing, claiming that it was syllabic to some degree (a claim that has been proven right by Linda Scheele et al. over the past decade.

Benjamin Lee Whorf died of cancer at the relatively young age of 44, and much of his most significant work was published posthumously.

Bibliography

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Carroll, John B. "Benjamin Lee Whorf." Dictionary of American Biography: 819-20.

___. "Introduction." Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Ed. John B. Carroll. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1956.

Devitt, Michael and Kim Sterelny. Language and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987.

Fishman, Joshua A. "A Systematization of the Whorfian Hypothesis." Behavioral Sciences 5 (1960): 323-379.

___. "Whorfianism of the Third Kind: Ethnolinguistic Diversity as a Worldwide Social Asset." Language in Society 11 (1982): 1-14.

Gardner, Howard. Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. New York: Basic Books, 1993.

Gruber, Howard E. "Aspects of Scientific Discovery: Aesthetics and Cognition." Vision of Aesthetics, the Environment, and Development: The Legacy of Joachim F. Wohlwill. Ed. Roger M. Downs, Lynn S. Liben, and David S. Palermo. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University, 19xx.

___. "Breakaway Minds" (interview with Howard Gardner). Psychology Today, July 1981: 68-73.

___. "Cognitive Psychology, Scientific Creativity, and the Case Study Method." In On Scientific Creativity. Ed. M.D. Graek, R.S. Cohen, and G. Cimino. Amsterdam: D. Reidel, 1980: 295-322.

___. "The Cooperative Synthesis of Disparate Points of View." The Legacy of Solomon Asch: Essays in Cognition and Social Psychology. Ed. Irvin Rock. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1990: 143-58.

___. "Coping With Multiplicity and Ambiguity of Meaning in Works of Art." Metaphor and Symbolic Activity 3(1988): 183-89.

___. "Creativite et fonction constructive de la repetition." Bulletin de psychologie de la Sorbonne: Numero special pour le 80e anniversaire de Jean Piaget. 1976.

___, with P.H. Barrett. Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

___. "Darwin's 'Tree of Nature' and Other Images of Wide Scope." In On Aesthetics in Nature. Ed. Judith Wechsler. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1978: 121-40.

___. "The Emergence of a Sense of Purpose." In Beyond Formal Operations. Ed. M. Commons. New York: Praeger, 19xx.

___. "Ensembles of Metaphor in Creative Scientific Thinking." Cahiers de la Fondation Archives Jean Piaget (1987): 235-54.

___, and J. J. Voneche, eds. The Essential Piaget. New York: Basic Books, 1977.

___. "The Evolving Systems Approach to Creative Work." In Wallace and Gruber, Creative People at Work: Twelve Case Studies: 3-24.

___. "The Evolving Systems Approach to Creativity." In Towards a Theory of Psychological Development. Ed. Sohan and Celia Modgil. Windsor, England: NFER, 1980: 269-3xx.

___ and V. Gruber. "The Eye of Reason: Darwin's Development During the Beagle Voyage." Isis 53(1962): 186-200.

___. "Foreward." Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking by Nora John-Steiner. New York: Harper and Row, 1985: ix-xii.

___. "The Fortunes of a Basic Darwinian Idea: Chance." In The Roots of American Psychology: Historical Influences and Implications for the Future. Ed. R.W. Rieber and K. Salzinger. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 291(1977).

___. "From Epistemic Subject to Unique Creative Person at Work." Archives de Psychologie 54(1985): 167-85.

___. "Giftedness and Moral Responsibility: Creative Thinking and Human Survival." In F.D. Horowitz and M. O'Brien, eds. The Gifted and the Talented: Developmental Perspectives. Washington: American Psychological Association, 1985.

___. "History and Creative Work: From the Most Ordinary to the Most Exalted." Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 19(1983): 4-15.

___ and S.N. Davis. "Inching Our Way Up Mount Olympus: The Evolving Systems Approach to Creative Thinking." In The Nature of Creativity. Ed. R.J. Sternberg. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988: 243-69.

___. "On the Hypothesized Relation Between Giftedness and Creativity." New Directions for Child Development 17(1982): 7-30.

___. "On the Relation Between 'Aha' Experiences' and the Con-struction of Ideas." History of Science 19(1981): 41-59.

___. "Piaget's Mission." Social Research 49(1982): 239-64. (PM)

___ and J.J. Voneche. "Reflexions sur les operations formelles de la pensee." Archieves de Psychologie 44(1976): 45-55.

___ and I.A. Sehl. "Transcending Relativism: Going Beyond the Information I am Given." In W. Callebaut, S.E. Cozzens, B.P. Lecuyer, A. Rip, and J.B. van Bendegem, eds. George Sarton Centennial. Ghent, Belgium: Communication and Cognition, 1984.

___. "Which Way is Up? A Developmental Question." In Adult Cognitive Development. Ed. R.A. Mines and K.S. Kitchener. New York: Praeger: 112-33.

Gumperz, John J. and Stephen C. Levinson. "Rethinking Linguistic Relativity." Current Anthropology 32(1991): 613-24.

Harris, Randy Allen. The Linguistics Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Hollander, John. "Asylum Avenue." The Wallace Stevens Journal 1.2 (1977): 68.

John-Steiner, Nora. Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking. New York: Harper and Row, 1985.

Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Lavery, David. "Creative Work: On the Method of Howard Gruber." Journal of Humanistic Psychology 33.2 (1993): 101-21.

Lee,-Benjamin. "Peirce, Frege, Saussure, and Whorf: The Semiotic Mediation of Ontology." Semiotic Mediation: Sociocultural and Psychological Perspectives. ." Ed. Elizabeth Mertz and Richard J. Parmentier. Orlando, FL: Academic, 1985. 99-128.

___. "Semiotic Origins of Mind-Body Dualism." Semiotics, Self, and Society. Ed. Benjamin Lee and Greg Urban. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1989. 193-228.

Lucy,-John-A. "Whorf's View of the Linguistic Mediation of Thought." Semiotic Mediation: Sociocultural and Psychological Perspectives. ." Ed. Elizabeth Mertz and Richard J. Parmentier. Orlando, FL: Academic, 1985. 73-97

Lucy,-John-A.; Wertsch,-James-V. "Vygotsky and Whorf: A Comparative Analysis." Social and Functional Approaches to Language and Thought. Ed. Maya Hickmann. New York: Academic, 1987. 67-86

Martin, Laura. "'Eskimo Words for Snow.' A Case Study in the Genesis and Decay of an Anthropological Example." American Anthropologist 88 (1986): 418-23.

d'Olivet. Fabre. The Hebrew Language Restored. Trans. Nayan Louise Redfield. 1921.

Pickering, George. Creative Malady. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Pinker, Steven. The Language Instinct. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

Pullum, Geoffrey. The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax and Other Irreverent Essays on the Study of Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Ross, Philip E. Ross. "New Whoof in Whorf: An Old Language Theory Regains Its Authority." Scientific American, February 1992: 24-25.

Sampson, Geoffrey. Schools of Linguistics. Stanford, CA: Stanford U P, 1980.

Sapir. Edward. Selected Writings of Edward Sapir. Ed. David G. Mandelbaum. Berkeley; University of California Press, 1951.

Schaff, Adam. Language and Cognition. Ed. Robert S. Cohen. Trans. Olgierd Wojtasiewicz. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.

Steiner, George. "Whorf, Chomsky, and the Student of Literature." On Difficulty and Other Essays. New York: Oxford, 1978: 136-63.

Trager, George L. "Benjamin L. Whorf." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, XVI: 536-38.

___. "The Systematization of the Whorf Hypothesis." Anthropological Linguistics 1(1959): 31-35.

Wallace, Doris B. "Studying the Individual: The Case Study Method and Other Genres." In Wallace and Gruber, eds. Creative People at Work: 25-43.

___. and Howard E. Gruber, ed. Creative People at Work: Twelve Cognitive Case Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Watkins, Mary. Waking Dreams. New York: Harper and Row, 1976.

Whorf, Benjamin. "An American Indian Model of the Universe." International Journal of American Linguistics 16(1950): 67-72; rpt. ETC, A Review of General Semantics 8 (1950): 27-33.(1936). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 57-64.

___. "Blazing Icicles." Hartford Agent, 1940.

___. "A Brotherhood of Thought." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.4 (1941): 13-14.

___. "A Central Mexican Inscription Combining Mexican and Maya Day Signs." American Anthropologist 34(1932): 296-302; in Language, Thought, and Reality: 43-50.

___. Collected Papers on Metalinguistics. Washington, DC: Department of State, Foreign Service Institute, 1952.

___. "The Comparative Linguistics of Uto-Aztecan." American Anthropologist 37(1935): 600-608.

___. "Concerning Science and Religion." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "Decipherment of the Linguistic Portion of the Maya Hiero glyphs" (1940). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 173-198.

___. "Discussion of Hopi Linguistics" (1937). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 102-111.

___. "Dr. Reiser's Humanism." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.5 (1941): 12- 14.

___. "The Expansion Theory." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "The Flux-Outlet Theory." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "Gestalt Technique of Stem Composition in Shawnee" (1939). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 160-72.

___. "Grammatical Categories." Language 21(1945): 1-11; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 87-101.

___. "H.G. Wells." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.3 (1941): 6.

___. "The Hopi Language, Toreva Dialect." Linguistic Structures of Native America. Ed. Harry Hoijer. New York: Viking Fund, 1946: 159-83.

___. "The Hurrians of Old Chaldea." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.3 (1941): 15.

___. "In Defense of Puritanism." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "Interpretation of Isotopes." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.3 (1941): 12-13.

___. "Language, Mind, and Reality." The Theosophist 63(1942): 281-91; rpt. ETC, A Review of General Semantics 9(1952): 167-88; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 246-270.

___. "Language: Plan and Conception of an Arrangement" (1938). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 125-134.

___. Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Edited by John B. Carroll. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1956.

___. "Languages and Logic." Technology Review 43(1941): 250-52, 266, 268, 272; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 233-45.

___. "Light-Velocity and Expansion." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "A Linguistic Consideration of Thinking in Primitive Communities" (1936). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 65-86.

___. "Linguistic Factors in the Terminology of Hopi Architecture." International Journal of American Linguistics 19(1953): 141-45; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 199-206.

___. "Linguistics as an Exact Science." Technology Review 43(1940): 61-63, 80-83; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 220-232.

___. "Loan Words in Ancient Mexico." Philological and Documentary Studies 1(1943): 1-17; rpt. Studies in Linguistics 5(1947): 49-64.

___. "The Maya Manuscript in Dresden." Art and Archaeology 34(1933): 270.

___. "Maya Writing and Its Decipherment." Maya Research 2(1935): 367-82.

___. "Notes on the Tubatulabal Language." American Anthropologist 38(1936): 341-44.

___. "On Being." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "On the Connection of Ideas" (1927). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 35-39.

___. "On Psychology" (n.d.). In Language, Thought, and Reality: 40-42.

___. "The Origin of Aztec TL." American Anthropologist 39(1937): 265-74.

___. "Phonemic Analysis of the English of Eastern Massachusetts." Studies in Linguistics 2(1943): 21-40.

___. The Phonetic Value of Certain Characters in Maya Writing. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vo. XIII, No. 8 Cambridge: Peabody Museum and Harvard University, 1933.

___. "Pines." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "The Punctual and Segmentative Aspects of Verbs in Hopi." Langugage 12(1936): 127-31; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 51-56.

___. "Purpose vs. Evolution." New Republic, 19 Dec. 1925.

___. "The Reign of Huemac." American Anthropologist 31(1929): 667-84.

___. "The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior in Language." Language, Culture, and Personality. Ed. Leslie Spier. Menasha, WI: Sapir Memorial Publication Fund, 1941: 75-93; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 134-159.

___, with George L. Trager. "The Relationship of Uto-Aztecan and Tanoan." American Anthropologist 39(1937): 609-24.

___. Review of Living Light by E.N. Harvey. Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.1 (1940): 3-5.

___. Review of The Way of Things by W.P. Montague." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.4 (1941): 10-11.

___. "Science and Linguistics." Technology Review 42(1940): 229-31, 247-48; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 207-219.

___. "Some Verbal Categories of Hopi." Language 14(1938): 275-86; In Language, Thought, and Reality: 112-24.

___. "Toward a Higher Mental World." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.7 (1941): 14-15.

___. "Unanswered Questions from Ancient Times." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial `Library.

___. "Universal Trinity in Unity." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

___. "We May End the War That is Within All Wars That are Waged to End All Wars." Main Currents in Modern Thought 1.1 (1940): 9-10.

___. "Why I Have Discarded Evolution." Benjamin Lee Whorf Papers. Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library.

External link

About Whorf (http://mtsu32.mtsu.edu:11072/Whorf/mindblw.htm)da:Benjamin Lee Whorf

de:Benjamin Whorf ja:ベンジャミン・ウォーフ pl:Benjamin Lee Whorf

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