Whorfian hypotheses; the effect language has on reality and how reality effects language.

Ali, 24 lives in Bintulu with his parent since he was little. Work in government and received his tertiary education at local university. He speaks Malay and listens to Malay songs and films. His brother, Hassan, 26 studied in Australian and since coming home he have been a fan of rugby and listen to English songs, especially Kylie. Both came from the same background but what cause the differences in their personal characters?

Language is important in our life and it not only works as a mean of expression and a tool for communication between one another, it also influences the way we think and perceive the surrounding world. Based on the study of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, they have came up with two hypotheses, linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity.

Linguistic determinism is the stronger version of the Worfian hypotheses. It suggested that language control the way a person conceptualizes about the world. People from different culture have a different perspective or concept about the world. Some language have different concept about certain things or object, for example snow. For us, in Malay there is only one word to describe snow, that is salji but for Eskimo, they have 52 words to describe snow. For us, a ketupat is a traditional dish that we can easily get here, but for Eskimo, they might not even have a name for ketupat. Here it seems that language have an effects on reality as it control one concept about the world.

The weaker version of the Worfian hypotheses is linguistic relativity. It suggested that language influences the way a person conceptualizes the world and their surrounding. This is easier to accept and can be seen in many cultures. For example, in Malay, there is no word to describe the color turquoise but this does not prevent the speaker to describe the concept of the color. This shows that it is not impossible to understand certain concept even if the language does not have a specific word for it. Here, it shows it is reality that effect language. Through the Whorfian hypotheses, it have shown the relation and effect language have on thought and culture. Language is a very important component in a civilized society. It can be affected by 3 things; the physical environment (lexical items and color terminology), the social environment (kinship) and the value of the society (taboo and euphemisms). For teachers, to teach effectively, these 3 items that can effect language must be understand so they can use it in their approach in teaching their student.

Physical environment is the thing we experience in our daily life. Language can be effected by physical environment in 2 ways, lexicon and color terminology. Lexicon is A stock of terms used in a particular profession, subject, or style. In every culture, there is a certain concept that is more important than others. For example, An Eskimo have 52 different words for snow while in our culture (Malay) we have only one word for snow. This is because snow is an important part of Eskimo culture but not us.

In a study by Berlin and Kay (1969) they have summarized the color terms and general patterns. If the language has two terms, it is equivalent to black and white. This is concept of color to the Jale people of New Guinea. If there is a third term, it is red (example, Tiv of Nigeria), the forth and fifth term will be yellow or green (or vice versa) (for example the Garo of Assam). The sixth and seventh terms are blue and brown (the Burmese) while the rest of it may be gray, pink orange and purple. All together, there are 11 basic color terms. Studies have shown that every culture and society analyze color in a same way. The different is that culture with less technology will have a narrower view on color.

Social environment is the relationship between the people around us. The most important and obvious linguistic effect on society is kinship. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, kinship is define as Connection by blood, marriage, or adoption; family relationship. Relationship by nature or character; affinity.

In an English society, kinship is made of words like son, mother, father, sister, daughter, grandfather, uncle, aunt, cousins, wife, husband, etc. There are, in all 15 lexical kinship distinction. Other than these 15 words, there are also terms like eldest brother, younger sister, great granddaughter and so on. But in some language, the kinship terms that are used in English society may not be used in the same manner in other culture. They may use these words to describe relationship that is not connected blood, marriage, or adoption; family relationship.
In Malay for example, brother can be someone older than us but without any relation. It can also be a name for a husband, regards of the age. Uncle and aunt can be anyone that is in the same age range of the father and mother.

The value of society can also be affected by language especially in the phenomenon of taboo words and euphemism. Taboo words are word that is vulgar and can offend the other person that hears it. It may have a sexual, religion politic and death connotation. The word is also rude, have a racist or sexist meaning. Taboo words are not permitted in the normal society as it can cause conflict. Euphemism is inoffensive expression that is substituted for one that is considered offensive.

These taboo words have an effect on society. If it is wrongly used, it can cause severe embarrasses to the speaker. Some words are considered taboo and to avoid from using this word, the speaker will replace it with another more subtle word. For example, American prefers to use rooster then cock. This is to avoid the word cock that has a strong sexual connotation.
Just like lexical items, color terminology and kinship, taboo words and euphemism is a part of a culture and cannot be separated. All of this is unique from one culture and another and might have an influence on the language.



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