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Edward Sapir

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years ago

Edward Sapir


1884 – 1939, American Linguistic Anthropologist



Photograph of Edward Sapir



Strengths:   prolific fieldworker and ethnographer, made important contributions to cultural theory, composed music and wrote poetry


Weaknesses:    his theories and work fell out of favor upon his death and did not attract substantial interest until the 1980’s, none of his students chose pursued his interests


Notable Accomplishments:    Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis



Born in Lauenburg, Germany, his family immigrated to the United States in 1989.  He studied linguistics at Columbia University, where he worked under Franz Boas.  After leaving Columbia, Sapir spent several years doing research at the University of California at Berkley and was then appointed director of anthropology for the Geological Survey of Canada.  In his research he recorded over 30 Native American languages, many of which have since become extinct.  He spent the last years of his life as a professor at the University of Chicago and Yale University.  His most famous student was Benjamin Lee Whorf, with whom he developed the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which contained two basic elements, linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity.  Sapir stated that thoughts were determined by language and that language influences cultures and thought processes.  Sapir died in February of 1939.



Selected Bibliography

Herder's "Ursprung der Sprache" (1907)

Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech (1921)

Nootka Texts: Tales and Ethnological Narratives, with Grammatical Notes and Lexical Materials (1939)

The Psychology of Culture: A Course of Lectures (2002)  (edited by Judith Irvine)


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