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Even while it constantly evolves, language continues to shape our reality. This insight was established in the 1920s by two linguists, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. They believed that reality is culturally determined, and that any interpretation of reality is based on a society’s language. To prove this point, the sociologists argued that every language has words or expressions specific to that language. In the United States, for example, the number thirteen is associated with bad luck. In Japan, however, the number four is considered unlucky, since it is pronounced similarly to the Japanese word for “death.”

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis    is based on the idea that people experience their world through their language, and that they therefore understand their world through the culture embedded in their language. The hypothesis, which has also been called linguistic relativity, states that language shapes thought (Swoyer 2003). Studies have shown, for instance, that unless people have access to the word “ambivalent,” they don’t recognize an experience of uncertainty from having conflicting positive and negative feelings about one issue. Essentially, the hypothesis argues, if a person can’t describe the experience, the person is not having the experience.

In addition to using language, people communicate without words. Nonverbal communication is symbolic, and, as in the case of language, much of it is learned through one’s culture. Some gestures are nearly universal: smiles often represent joy, and crying often represents sadness. Other nonverbal symbols vary across cultural contexts in their meaning. A thumbs-up, for example, indicates positive reinforcement in the United States, whereas in Russia and Australia, it is an offensive curse (Passero 2002). Other gestures vary in meaning depending on the situation and the person. A wave of the hand can mean many things, depending on how it’s done and for whom. It may mean “hello,” “goodbye,” “no thank you,” or “I’m royalty.” Winks convey a variety of messages, including “We have a secret,” “I’m only kidding,” or “I’m attracted to you.” From a distance, a person can understand the emotional gist of two people in conversation just by watching their body language and facial expressions. Furrowed brows and folded arms indicate a serious topic, possibly an argument. Smiles, with heads lifted and arms open, suggest a lighthearted, friendly chat.

Is the united states bilingual?

In 1991, when she was six years old, Lucy Alvarez attended a school that allowed for the use of both English and Spanish. Lucy’s teacher was bilingual, the librarian offered bilingual books, and many of the school staff spoke both Spanish and English. Lucy and many of her classmates who spoke only Spanish at home were lucky. According to the U.S. Census, 13.8 percent of U.S. residents speak a non-English language at home. That’s a significant figure, but not enough to ensure that Lucy would be encouraged to use her native language in school (Mount 2010).

Lucy’s parents, who moved to Texas from Mexico, struggled under the pressure to speak English. Lucy might easily have gotten lost and left behind if she’d felt the same pressure in school. In 2008, researchers from Johns Hopkins University conducted a series of studies on the effects of bilingual education (Slavin et al. 2008). They found that students taught in both their native tongue and English make better progress than those taught only in English.

Technically, the United States has no official language. But many believe English to be the rightful language of the United States, and over thirty states have passed laws specifying English as the official tongue. Proponents of English-only laws suggest that a national ruling will save money on translation, printing, and human resource costs, including funding for bilingual teachers. They argue that setting English as the official language will encourage non-English speakers to learn English faster and adapt to the culture of the United States more easily (Mount 2010).

Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) oppose making English the official language and claim that it violates the rights of non-English speakers. English-only laws, they believe, deny the reality of our nation’s diversity and unfairly target Latinos and Asians. They point to the fact that much of the debate on this topic has risen since 1970, a time when the United States experienced new waves of immigration from Asia and Mexico.

Today, a lot of product information gets written in multiple languages. Enter a store like Home Depot and you’ll find signs in both English and Spanish. Buy a children’s product, and the safety warnings could be presented in multiple languages. While marketers are financially motivated to reach the largest number of consumers possible, this trend also may help people acclimate to a culture of bilingualism.

Studies show that most U.S. immigrants eventually abandon their native tongues and become fluent in English. Bilingual education helps with that transition. Today, Lucy Alvarez is an ambitious and high-achieving college student. Fluent in both English and Spanish, Lucy is studying law enforcement—a field that seeks bilingual employees. The same bilingualism that contributed to her success in grade school will help her thrive professionally as a law officer serving her community.

A keep out sign with text in English and Spanish is shown.
Nowadays, many signs—on streets and in stores—include both English and Spanish. What effect does this have on members of society? What effect does it have on our culture? (Photo courtesy of istolethetv/flickr)

Summary

A culture consists of many elements, such as the values and beliefs of its society. Culture is also governed by norms, including laws, mores, and folkways. The symbols and language of a society are key to developing and conveying culture.

Short answer

What do you think of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? Do you agree or disagree with it? Cite examples or research to support your point of view.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

How do you think your culture would exist if there were no such thing as a social “norm”? Do you think chaos would ensue or relative peace could be kept? Explain.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Further research

The science-fiction novel, Babel-17 , by Samuel R. Delaney was based upon the principles of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Read an excerpt from the novel here: (External Link)

References

Mount, Steve. 2010. “Constitutional Topic: Official Language.” USConstitution.net , last modified January 24. Retrieved January 3, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

OED Online . 2011. Oxford University Press. Retrieved May 5, 2011 ( (External Link) ).

Passero, Kathy. 2002. “Global Travel Expert Roger Axtell Explains Why.” Biography July:70–73,97–98.

Slavin, R. E., A. Cheung, C. Groff, and C. Lake. 2008. “Effective Reading Programs for Middle and High Schools: A Best-Evidence Synthesis.” Reading Research Quarterly 43(3):290–322.

Sumner, William G. 1906. Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals . New York: Ginn and Co.

Swoyer, Chris. 2003. “The Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , edited by E. N. Zalta, Winter. Retrieved May 5, 2011 ( (External Link) ).

Vaughan, R. M. 2007. “Cairo’s Man Show.” Utne Reader March–April:94–95.

Weber, Bruce. 2001. “Harold Garfinkel, a Common-Sense Sociologist, Dies at 93.” The New York Times , May 3. Retrieved February 10, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Westcott, Kathryn. 2008. “World’s Best-Known Protest Symbol Turns 50.” BBC News , March 20. Retrieved January 3, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Questions & Answers

anyone tell me scop sociology
Kifayat Reply
sociology has a great scope in our rural development department
Saahi
hmm rural development
manisha
sociology has a great scope in our economy development department
Basu
sociology has a great scope in our community development
Basu
need syllaus or past papers for assistant curator in culture tourism & antiquities dept.
Qamar
Sociology teaches life tools from birth to death.
Jimela Dora Reply
ok
Mary
it's about all the abstract mechanism of life which cannot be seen with our eyes but can be observed by our rational capability.
Dewan
i am totally confuse in my life.what i can do now.have any idea about me
Malik
what capabilities you have, knowing your limits but limits can be eradicated by himself.
manisha
it also depends on your locality, what you can do there.
manisha
certain things are there aside by the government or commission that one has to follow, cracking government exams, competitive exams, competing degrees. but if u can't cope with that then one thing left is business. yes to set your own business.
manisha
actually, all of us are helping themselves in order to survive, in order to earn money. you will not get help from the outer side, one has to help himself. if you are confused coz u are watching so many things at a time and not focusing on self that what you can do?
manisha
what the problum to you malik amir
MURAD
i hate my life
Malik
why
Yousef
because no only loves me in my life
Malik
we love you boy
Trending
Manisha you sound good... observation of life is so simple actually... survival, But living a life and surviving is having hell lot of difference... elucidate?
Trending
Amir where are you from...?
Trending
happy to join this forum
tarawallie
india occupied kadhmir....
Malik
human life itself is limited, but utilising the time you have before death is called life.
Dewan
confusion occur when one cannot find the reason of life. But as I have mentioned earlier reason is also not long last, it is also limited. Again life cobtains an ocean of choices if look into it carefully. Look for a reason and live with it. When the reason end search and find another one.
Dewan
After all, what we are waiting is our death. Spend the life by garnishing with your freedom of choice.
Dewan
okay British occupied India occupied Kashmir... that Hagel called as Negation of Negation of Negation
Trending
really life is nothing
Malik
Life is dimless
Philemon
today age is full of frestation but adjustment.in our kashmir day by day killing.our life is full of worries.
Malik
Hello, just joined the chat
Pamela
hy
Malik
malik, you shouldn't hate your life, because you are the only one that can make you happy. its actually not about who loves you and who doesn't, because you are the one that knows what makes you happy and what makes you sad..... so learn to love yourself, cut out what you don't want in your life
Pamela
in our state every day india force kills our brothers....what i want now
Malik
hello
Salisu
Hi
AK
to me the problem of kashmir is all about the mainstream politics of India and the regional politics. And also a contrast in naratives in the theory of nation state between the two which include the element of relion, religion and ethnicity.
Dewan
our desire is only now.we want leave the world. there is no value of our thougts. we are here useless because of bloody indian army
Malik
a prolong discussion between the two party is needed. Any hasty decision won't last long because this is a very vulnerable issue.
Dewan
every day we cry.plz leave our state alone.but indian army is not ready.
Malik
I can't help you @malik amir and it seems you are stuck there, u cant leave Kashmir? if u cant leave Kashmir then living on our own way privately is the choice left with you, I have Kashmiris friend on FB and I feel very sorry for that situation which you are facing. army is in the hands of politics
manisha
army follows what order comes from a higher level. u know what these borders and captivated parts are the root cause of it. kashmir issue is long ago issue. earlier was with pak India issues. now i don't know what's the matter. we cant change the system.
manisha
matter is only we made rules as per islam.but india is not ready.
Malik
why are you associating urself with any religion? just live your life.. society just made you Islam but u know what u r just individual and can live without any religion.
manisha
only religion is required is the religion of love in society. Different cultures can be there for life to live or pattern of living. but becoming rigid and discriminating is creating problem.
manisha
what does a sociologist do?
Chineye Reply
no. 1 question of the year :)
manisha
they do research about the society. society's concept, issues, problems and came up with some data about society and problems and work upon a solution by implementing methods. as what I think sir. but i can only know by joining the research centre and working with them.
manisha
A sociologist Examines social problems in society and tries to come up with their solutions through systematic investigation
ali
where are you from?
ali
Tanzania at Arusha,
Said
tanzonia in east africa?
ali
india
manisha
yes,
Said
welcom tz mr,
Said
how are u mr said
Dereck
fine how are?
Said
am fine mr dereck, how are you?
Said
Hello
Fatoumatta
hy
Vishal
am gud
Dereck
am in tanzania also
Dereck
you come on wassap or email
Dereck
what are the goals of the sociologist
Dereck
the goals of sociology is to learn the society how shoul proceed their life system in better ways and give society solutions they can solve their problems improving peaples attudes blieves behavior and so integration it examines social systems
Fatima
The goal of a sociologist is to study and understand the society in such , they can educate the public how to go about their social activities, cultures and how to fit and adjust to the society. It's also a goal for sociologist to identity problems affecting the society and how to solve them.
Fatoumatta
Hola!
Majid
I'm from pakistan , student of sociology .
Majid
A sociologist is someone who studies society and social behaviour by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes that people develop. Most sociologists work in research organizations, colleges and universities, regional and federal government .
Majid
since the society is like an organism it does grow and so changes , sociologist studies the society and it current growth to help us be able to adapt new features developed by the society through growth
Doris
What is the importance of sociology?
onoja
Sociology helps to profer solution to the societal problems
onoja
sociology is important for individuals because it throw light on the problems of individuals
teddy
discuss the manifest and latent function accordingly Parsons's view
Akak Reply
what does change means?
yashika Reply
elucidate the pattern variable.
Akak
social change means a change in the lifestyle, living pattern, structure, its a long process with time being. it happens with an invention of certain technology, measures, movement, law, modernisation, globalisation, industrialisation, NGOs, government measures, the green revolution, etc.
manisha
who is manishaa
Vishal
all answers have too
Vishal
I give my answer on the basis of what I learn and not copy paste as I have just now given 1st yr of the master in sociology exam.
manisha
can u plz help me how can I learnt sociology...
Vishal
miss manisha
Vishal
for 1st year of PG sociology
Vishal
by going through notes, there are many sites which provide sociology notes and FB pages and mrunal notes of ignou free pdf download and many books available in the market. just go through YouTube links also for help and guidance.
manisha
what are the importance of norms and values in the society?
Hawa Reply
it creates law and order in society. people get some restrictions and rules which they follow and this remain with the boundaries of these norms and values. it also brings identity to a particular group or individual
manisha
people come to know about certain guidelines in order to practice social life.
manisha
these guidelines are necessary for a child to learn in the process of socialisation.
manisha
it's the cultural practice which distinguishes people from other culture as applicable to their own society. As every society has their own norms and values.
manisha
how to become a good socialist
Dereck Reply
by reading
Yousef
by joining researchers or research centre after your education as per your nation.
manisha
what is the different btw material culture and non material culture
bolatito
material includes material objects, the belongings of a group of people, a physical structure where people worship, stores, automobiles. tangible things visible things. non-material culture includes ideas, attitudes and beliefs of society, intangible things..laws morals, custom, habits, capabilities
manisha
material includes material objects, physical/ tangible things such as clothes , shoes etc while non-material culture included all intangible things or abstract things such as laws morals, custom, habits, capabilities ideas, attitudes and beliefs of society,
MURAD
by reading
Gidan
critically explain how the agents of socialisation impacts sociaty
Gershom
when was sociology founded
Shaira Reply
it was founded since during primitive society but it became a profession due to sociologists such as Herbert spencer, Max Weber and
Dereck
so it was there before the modern societies created and became famous as a profession after the writings and theories of such sociologists that i named above
Dereck
i think you are getting me Shaira mohamed
Dereck
any other questions
Dereck
What is the best concise definition of sociology?
Solomon Reply
given in app
manisha
it's like this "it refers to the scientific study of societies as well as social interaction for example groups interaction
Dereck
Computer has gone berserk,, humanity at the mercy of machine,, discuss....
onoja Reply
I think both humanity and computer or internet goes hand in hand. it's a way of connecting humans.
manisha
Google it... that's better... I can't type , it's truck load of content
Trending
humanity & internet are interconnected each other.
Sa
I want read sociology in nepali
Pradeshu
not humanity but humans
Iqra
humanity is a byproduct of humans only..well first understand what is humanity.. to be human but society has made you inhuman by certain rules n regulations. by diving you into two things..splits is never humanity..wholeness is humanity. you can't be like to choose materialistically or spiritually
manisha
you need both. the division is not a goal. and everything has two sides..computer internet has lots of things to display to you where you get lost and result in division
manisha
competition is the biggest culprit which makes people do things against humanity for the sake of achieving.
manisha
yeah that's right
Vishal
what is love
Muhammad Reply
love is to do sociology practically rather than read sociology
musharaf
love can be define or seen as a natural phenomenal development and choice of a man
Agbaje
Hi....#Musharaf....Are you a Sociology practice by profession
Agbaje
love is an idea, it's as idea of consent and consensus, With love we make things sacred and without love we make them profane, n according to Weber everything sacred is religion which means love is religion,
Trending
love don't need these explanations hahaha go out of mind... it's not a theory or idea..so get out from this misconception... and I can't define love... :)
manisha
hy all of you guys
Vishal
knowledge beside on the sense along
Gidan
hi
Yousef
Love gives freedom to be yourself; it is not possessiveness.
manisha
but people starts possessing in the name of love...destroy the love
manisha
Don't miss any opportunity of love. Even passing in a street, you can be loving. Even to the beggar you can be loving.
manisha
Go on loving. The more you love, the more is the possibility for the right person to happen, because your heart starts flowering. And a flowering heart attracts many bees, many lovers.
manisha
You have been trained in a very wrong way. First, everybody lives under a wrong impression that everybody is already a lover. Just being born, you think you are a lover. It's not so easy. Yes, there is a potentiality, but the potentiality has to be trained, disciplined.
manisha
A seed exists, but it has to come to flower. You can go on carrying your seed; no bee will be coming. Have you ever seen bees coming to the seeds? Don't they know that seeds can become flowers? But they come when they become flowers. Become a flower, don't remain a seed.
manisha
My message is love, my religion is love. In a way it is very simple. it has no complexity about it -- no rituals, no dogmas, no hypothetical philosophy. It is a very simple and direct approach towards life. The small word 'love' can contain it. (,osho)
manisha
It is not a question of whom you love -- it is immaterial to whom your love is addressed. The thing that matters is that you should love twenty-four hours a day, just as you breathe.
manisha
Never think of sex as love, otherwise you will be deceived. Be alert, and when you start feeling with someone that just the presence, the pure presence -- nothing else, nothing else is needed; you don't ask anything -- just the presence, just that the other is, is enough to make you happy...
manisha
something starts flowering within you, a thousand and one lotuses bloom... then you are in love, and then you can pass through all the difficulties that reality creates.
manisha
all of the definitions are dysfunctional in sociology...
Trending
Manisha wat is your own view about love?
onoja
Sorry manisha I got it...
onoja
love is practice or action we shower...when we shower more love, we become more towards love. by loving someone only you get the benefit first as by showering, first it develops into it. its practice we all should do.
manisha
Agbaje sr im still master of sociology but wish to be .........plz pray fr me sociokogy is my life my evrything....
musharaf
love to a child, love to parents, love to husband, love to friends, love to animals, love to every individual, then one becomes loveful.
manisha
unspoken. is shown through the day by day things the acts we individually do how we are it is a personal thing best not overdefighned
Debbie
is social research methods and research methodologies are two different questions or will include similar points as pure n applied, experimental descriptive, quantitative n qualitative etc.
manisha Reply
aha
Yousef
but i dont think quntitative and qualitative it correct methods
Yousef
कहना क्या चाहते हो?
Swarn
then can u please elaborate research methodology types as acc to me...it includes 1. basic n applied 2 descriptive n analytical 3 empirical n exploratory 4 quantitative n qualitative 5 explanatory and longitudinal 6 experimental n evaluative 7 participatory action research.
manisha
ok I got it now...the points which I mentioned here are types of social research
manisha
types and methods r two different thing
manisha
Manisha I will like to go on private with you... If you do that mind.
onoja
Waooo yes I want to know more about it
Muhammad Reply
yeS you can asked
Mind
What is institution
Muhammad
what is marriage?
Susant Reply
It is the approved social pattern which composed of one or more then two persons
Mind
can any one discuss the marriage?
Akak
marriage is a union between a man and a woman to become husband and wife to form a family.
Vafie
i told you marraige is the approved socail pattern mean approved by society members to make husband and wife
Mind
Social approval for a man and woman to live together and have sexual relationship to begin their progeny.
Swarn
marriage is a mutual understanding and agreement between a man and woman witnessed and approved by members of the society to build their own family.
Fatoumatta
marriage is the piece of paper that says it is a legal contact and that the two persons have entered into an agreed relationship and have thearfore registered contact with the department of State.
Debbie
discuss the application of sociology in agriculture , health and crime
Arslan Reply
good
Salisu

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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