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Routledge Enyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning, 2nd Edition by Adelheid Hu, Michael Byram

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Sapir—Whorf Hypothesis

The Sapir–Whorf Hypothesis (SWH) is particularly relevant in the discussion of linguistic relativity. It claims, in essence, that a language selects and isolates certain aspects of the ‘kaleidoscopic flux of impressions’ and thus structures reality for us. The following quotation from Edward Sapir (1884– 1939) illustrates this assumption: ‘Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental ...

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