posted by Shannon on .
Benjamin Whorf argued that because the Inuit have many words for snow,
A. they have more ways to describe snow than speakers of other languages.
B. they have better perceptual skills than speakers with fewer words for snow.
C.they have more uses for snow in their culture.
D.they notice differences in snow that speakers with fewer words for snow do not notice.
A. seems like the logical answer.
C is probably the answer your teacher wants, based on relativism, but frankly, Whorf's ideas, and data have been unversally debunked, so much that a critical analysis is impossible. However, the so called example is still cited in many texts. Yes, it is pure nonsense.
<<In his essay "The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax," Geoffrey Pullum writes very entertainingly about the snow words example, citing Martin's paper and poking fun at the scholars who have slavishly repeated the claim promulgated by other scholars with no reference to primary data. Pullum is not above overstating the case just a bit: "The truth is that the Eskimos do not have lots of different words for snow, and no one who knows anything about Eskimo has ever said they do." (This second part of his statement is certainly true, since those familiar with the actual data have kept fairly silent.) "Anyone who insists on simply checking their primary sources will find that they are quite unable to document the alleged facts about snow vocabulary (but nobody ever checks, because the truth might not be what the reading public wants to hear.)" A minor quibble with Pullum is that he calls the bungling treatment of the snow example a hoax, even though there was never really any intention to deceive. In an appendix titled "Yes, but how many really?" Pullum is to be applauded for taking the radical step of consulting a bona fide specialist of Eskimo linguistics, Anthony Woodbury. By all accounts Pullum is the first scholar writing on this subject who has thought to consult a specialist, or at least the first one to openly admit doing so. Based largely on Jacobson's Yup'ik Eskimo Dictionary, Woodbury estimates that there are from one to two dozen words (lexemes) for snow, depending on which ones are included.>>
Frankly, I wonder at why a scholar such as your teacher would be teaching you concepts based on false evidence. Are you learning the 'lessons' Margaret Mead taught also?