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Benjamin Lee Whorf Biography Benjamin Lee Whorf Biography American linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf — is remembered for a group of speculative ideas about thought and language that remain controversial but have exerted strong influence Whitman supplement essay popular scientific thinking.
The most famous of these ideas is the so-called Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, derived largely from Whorf's research among Native American tribes and the writings that resulted indeed, it is sometimes simply called the Whorfian hypothesis.
Simply stated, the hypothesis never laid out as such by its supposed authors proposed that language is not only a part of culture, influenced by the groups of human beings who construct it, but also an influence on culture and thought.
Human beings, Whorf believed, see the world in the ways they do because of the structure of the languages they speak. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis might be considered part of a larger group of ideas classified as examples of linguistic relativism, or the belief that languages are different at a fundamental level.
That belief has come under attack in recent decades, but Whorf's ideas have given Whitman supplement essay to a rich literature of popular writing about language.
His ideas, for the most part, became well known only after his death. His father, Harry Whorf, was a commercial artist with varied interests: Benjamin Whorf, even as a child, soon began to show an even wider curiosity. He read books on almost any subject he encountered, and he had special enthusiasm for codes and puzzles.
Whorf was religious his family was Methodistand he later came under the influence of the French mystical writer and linguist Antoine Fabre d'Olivet —whose metaphysical thinking was linked to his belief that the texts of the Bible and other sacred volumes contained hidden meanings.
Parallel with his rich intellectual life, however, Whorf pursued a more conventional career.
He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MITmajoring in chemical engineering and receiving a bachelor of science degree in His interest in languages intensified, but business trips gave him the chance to read academic journals and keep up with new developments in linguistics.
In he married Celia Inez Peckham, and the pair raised three children. For the rest of his life, Whorf made the Hartford, Connecticut, area his home. Whorf shared insurance as a profession with several other thinkers of his time who were among the most original figures in their fields—the poet Wallace Stevens actually worked at the Hartford during the same years as Whorf, although they are not thought to have known each other, and composer Charles Ives, a fellow Connecticut resident, commuted to an insurance office in New York City and wrote music on the side.
Whorf, who was recognized as an authority on industrial fire prevention, never complained that his vocation took time away from his research and writing, and in fact later in life he refused offers of teaching jobs, preferring to remain independent of the academic world.
Under the influence of Fabre d'Olivet, Whorf spent time in the early s learning to read biblical Hebrew. The perceived conflict between science and religion was a major issue at the time, and Whorf looked to language as a way of resolving the conflict.
Fascinated by the seemingly powerful significance of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, he began to search for similar phenomena in other languages. He became interested in Native American languages and familiarized himself with the long effort to reconstruct the languages of the ancient Mayan and Aztec societies.
Wrote Letters to Professional Linguists In the late s Whorf took the first steps toward communicating his ideas to the wider intellectual community: A skillful writer with a gift for couching his highly unorthodox ideas in conventional academic language, he stirred up interest among established scholars with this correspondence.
They suggested that he apply for grants to do linguistic fieldwork, and Whorf took their advice, winning funding from the Social Science Research Council for a trip to Mexico in Traveling among Native tribes in that country, he made significant contributions to ongoing research on the Aztec or Nahuatl language.
In top linguist Edward Sapir took a job teaching at Yale University, and Whorf enrolled there as a part-time, nondegree graduate student. The result was something of a meeting of the minds. Sapir was an expert on Native American languages, which differ in striking ways from those of Europe and Asia.
Navajo, for example, classifies objects according to their physical characteristics; a verb applying to a flexible object would be different from one applying to something stiff.
Sapir urged Whorf to study the Hopi language, and Whorf learned to speak it, probably better than the other languages about which he wrote.
He traveled to the Hopi reservation in New Mexico and also took lessons from a Hopi individual living in New York City, learning the language well enough to compile a Hopi-English dictionary that was found among his papers at his death.
Whorf was a quick study, under both Sapir and his Native teachers, and he soon began to write articles that were accepted for publication in linguistics and anthropology journals.
Whorf issued several dozen articles in the s, many of which were collected posthumously in the book Language, Thought, and Reality Some of his writing was quite technical, but he was also an effective communicator with general audiences, contributing several essays on linguistics to MIT's nonspecialist-oriented Technology Review.
For his writing, Whorf took examples from various Native American languages, but it was Hopi that formed the basis for many of his most original ideas.Sep 26, · essay about you self for nursing school bressay statoil usa social nationalism essays ramapo essay kenneth branagh shakespeare authorship essay?
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