sapir-whorf hypothesis

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis萨丕尔-沃尔夫假设主要内容

The Am erican anthropologist-linguist Edward Sapir and his student Benjamin Lee Whorf proposed a sweeping, two-pronged hypothesis concerning language and thought.

美国人萨丕尔及其弟子沃尔夫提出的有关语言与思维关系的假设是这个领域里至今为止最具争议的理论。

Whorf proposed first that all higher levels of thinking are dependent on language. Or put it more bluntly, language determines thought, hence the strong notion of linguistic determinism. Because languages differ in many ways, Whorf also believed that speakers of different languages perceive and experience the world differently, that is, relative to their linguis tic background, hence the notion of linguis tic relativism.

沃尔夫首先提出,所有高层次的思维都倚赖于语言。说得更明白一些,就是语言决定思维,这就是语言决定论这一强假设。由于语言在很多方面都有不同,沃尔夫还认为,使用不同语言的人对世界的感受和体验也不同,也就是说与他们的语言背景有关,这就是语言相对论。

If follows from this strong version of the hypothesis that there is no real translation and that it is impossible to learn the language of a different culture unless the learner abandons his or here own mode of thinking and acquires the thought patterns of the native speakers of the target language.

由萨丕尔-沃尔夫假设的这种强假设可以得出这样的结论:根本没有真正的翻译,学习者也不可能学会另一种文化区的语言,除非他抛弃了他自己的思维模式,并习得说目的语的本族语者的思维模式。

Arguments against the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis 对萨丕尔-沃尔夫假设的批判

Words and meaning. It is widely accepted that theλvocabulary of a language consists of nothing more than meaningless labels which are manipulated by language users to elicit emotional reactions or behavioral responses, to impart information or to direct the lis tener’s attention. The meaning of a word or phrase depends largely on the communicative context. As the context of a word or sentence changes, its effect and meaning also change.

词和意义。人们普遍接受了这一点:语言中的词汇只是一些无意义的标签,语言使用者用它们来引起情绪上的或行为上的反应,传递信息或引导听者的注意力。词和短语的意义在很多程度上倚赖于语境。词句的语境变了,它们的要旨和意义也随之而变。

Grammatical s tructure. The s yntactic s ys tem of aλlanguage and the perceptual s ys tem of the speakers of that language do not have the kind of interdependent relationship that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis claimed to have. Many grammatical features of a language are purely superficial aspects of linguistic structure.

语法结构。语言的句法系统和使用该语言的人的感知系统之间并没有萨丕尔-沃尔夫假设所声称的那种相互倚赖的关系。语言的许多语法特征都纯粹是语言结构的表层现象。

Translation. Another major argument agains t theλhypothesis comes from the fact that successful translation between languages can be made. The translation argument is supported by the very fact that conceptual uniqueness of a language such as Hopi can nonetheless be explained in English.

翻译。对萨丕尔-沃尔夫假设的另一批判来自于语言间可以有成功的翻译这一事实。我们可以用英语来解释如霍皮语这样的语言的概念上的独特性,这一事实可以证明翻译批判的观点。Second language acquisition. If languages haveλdifferent conceptual s ys tems, then someone who speaks one language will be unable to learn the other language because he lacks the right conceptual s ys tem. However, s ince people can learn radically different languages, those languages couldn’t have different conceptual s ystems.

第二语言习得。如果不同语言有不同的概念体系,那么说某种语言的人就会因为没有所需要的概念体系而无法学会另一种语言。然而,由于人们可以学会完全不同的语言,因而这些语言不应该有不同的概念体系。

Language and world views. The language s ystem doesλnot necessarily provide specifics of one’s world views. On the one hand, people speaking the same language may have different world views, including political, social, religious, scientific and philosophical views. On the other hand, people speaking different languages may share similar political, social, religious, scientific or philosophical views. Moreover, one language can describe many different world views, as is evident in the case of successful translation.

语言与世界观。语言体系并不一定能影响一个人对世界的看法。一方面,说同一语言的人对世界可能有不同的看法,包括政治观点、社会观点、宗教观点、科学观点和哲学观点都可能有所不同。另一方面,说不同语言的人也有可能有相似的政治观点、社会观点、宗教观点、科学观点和哲学观点。另外,一种语言也可以描述对世界的多种不同的看法,这一点在成功的翻译作品中可以看得很清楚

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