Edward Sapir

Edward Sapir (səpēr´), 1884–1939, American linguist and anthropologist, b. Pomerania. Sapir was brought to the United States in 1889. After teaching at the Univ. of California and the Univ. of Pennsylvania, he served (1910–25) as chief of the division of anthropology of the Canadian National Museum. He was professor of anthropology at the Univ. of Chicago (1925–31), and of anthropology and linguistics at Yale from 1931 until his death. With his student Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897–1941) he developed the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, arguing that the limits of language restrict the scope of possible thought and that every language recognizes peculiar sets of distinctions—e.g., Eskimo and its rich vocabulary for different kinds of snow. The theory has been enormously influential but has for the most part been superseded by subsequent research. Sapir's studies on the ethnology and linguistics of various Native American groups of the United States contributed greatly to the development of descriptive linguistics. Among his books are Wishram Texts (1909), Time Perspective in Aboriginal American Culture (1916), Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech (1921), and Nootka Texts (1939).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Edward Sapir: Selected full-text books and articles

Culture, Language and Personality By Edward Sapir; David G. Mandelbaum University of California Press, 1949
Selected Writings of Edward Sapir in Language, Culture and Personality By Edward Sapir; David G. Mandelbaum University of California Press, 1949
Toward a History of American Linguistics By E. F.K. Koerner Routledge, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "On the Sources of the 'Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis'"
What We Do with Language-What It Does with Us By Kodish, Bruce I ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, Vol. 60, No. 4, Winter 2003
Patterns for America: Modernism and the Concept of Culture By Susan Hegeman Princeton University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The National Genius: Van Wyck Brooks, Edward Sapir, and the Problem of the Individual"
Ruth Benedict, Patterns of a Life By Judith Schachter Modell University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Edward Sapir begins on p. 126
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