Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and coordinated bilinguals in Spanish and English

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The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, often known as the concept of linguistic relativity, asserts that the way a language is structured has a significant impact on how its speaker perceives their environment. Their understanding of society and their position within it is substantially impacted. There are two forms of the theory that are frequently studied: the strong and the weak. The strong version asserts that the speaker's perspective and worldview, including their thought, are established by their language. According to the notion, language categories both constrain and determine cognitive categories. The weak version notes that the influence that linguistic categories have on choices and ideas is very small and is only given the status of influence. The article shall discuss the theory that language influences a person's demeanor. It shall utilize descriptive research as well reversal theory to establish a relationship between the two variables. Particularly, the paper shall offer an intimate understanding of the application of the hypothesis on English and Spanish bilinguals. It shall develop compelling arguments to support and oppose this perspective as well as discuss the results and offer an adept conclusion.

Spanish-English coordinate bilinguals and Sapir-Whorf hypothesis


Derived from the works of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, the hypothesis seek to assert that a person's outlook of the world is determined by the language they speak. It was developed as a result of studies conducted by scholars to define differences in perspectives based on a subject's cultural affiliations. Previously, it was widely believed that cultures shaped the communities' world view. They were studied in totality with language, traditions, beliefs, and customary practices being believed to significantly impact a person's ability to adequately distinctively interpret the environment around them. However, advances in sociology have demonstrated that each of these factors have distinct implications on a person's thoughts. As such, they ought to be examined in seclusion.

Whorf and Sapir lived in separate timelines and investigated linguistic relatively in different scales and fashions. They postulated several deductions independent of each other and did not intentionally develop the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. The theory was as a result of critical study of their work. Recent research in sociology has unearthed the colossal significance of language and through, prompting scholars to coin the theory. Spanish and English are by far, the most spoken languages throughout the globe. They account for nearly 12% of all native language speakers and have risen to overtake mandarin as the most common linguistic grouping. Scholars have continually explained that key differences among speakers of the two lingoes are instituted by the separate world views proscribed by the languages themselves. As such, persons have their outlooks shaped to reflect consistency with the given culture.

Interaction between the different ethnic groupings have resulted in the interest in native speakers to learn other languages. It is becoming increasingly common to come across persons with perfect mastery of the two languages. However, this does not makes the hypothesis that language is a key determinant of thoughts and decisions less valid. Obviously, it presents the obvious dilemma as to the eventual world view of the bilingual speaker. One may even ask, in the event that the outlook of Spanish and English speakers is contrasting, which paradigm does the bilingual speaker assume? The hypothesis discusses this situation in totality.

Literature Review

Much literature has be written on the subject with a view to explaining the association between the two variables. Scholars have set off to find out if it is at all true that language impacts the decisions made or thoughts assumed by a given person. One of the most interesting elements unearthed by researchers is the reality that bilingual and multilingual individuals exhibit modestly to elaborately unique personalities when speaking the different languages. Their mannerisms are often consistent with the languages spoken. Many sociological discourses perceive language as a filter to a person's mental, and emotional disposition. They are a front for modifying behaviour and reaction towards the world. Subjects in empirical studies have been noted to explain that portray a totally different temperament and sense of self when requested to use a given language to express themselves. They have been reported to register more elaborate personality characteristics and are believed to subconsciously assume a totality different mental identity. To offer greater insight into the phenomenon, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis isolates the pertinent cognitive faculties to define the correlations that exist between the thought patterns and languages.

Perlovsky (2009)'s Language and emotions: emotional Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, defines language as a prop for one's sense of individuality. The author maintains that language compels persons to act in a given way. It acts as a mirror on which a person assesses their mannerisms. It encourages a given set of norms while viciously impeding the expression of others. As such, it balances the extent to which one engages in a given activity in their environment. Typically, most persons are unaware to what extents their conduct is fashioned by their linguistic affiliation. They do not notice the degree to which the language they speak modifies their demeanour. The author explains that a great disparity in the positions assumed by these persons can often be noted. The impact is often subliminal and cannot often be easily determined by the speaker.

Bilingual English-Spanish speakers are commonly extensively impacted by this trait. This group happens to enjoy the most elaborate cultural positions, some of which are deeply contrasting. English and Spanish cultures are significantly varied. Some of the key differences include their views on relationships, money culture, and festivity. Spanish speakers exhibits a great degree of reverence for relationships. They live in closely knitted units and deeply value their loved ones. Conversely, the admiration placed by English speakers on their loved ones is relatively moderate as opposed to their counterparts with Latin ancestry.

Family units are not as respected. The bond between siblings are not also not as strong. This characteristic is commonly reflected in conventional conversational settings. Spanish speakers commonly refer to one another by their relational pronouns as opposed to English speakers who arguably fail to fully recognize the significance of such bonds. A multilingual speaker would be forced to share these contrasting perspectives. They would subconsciously bite into the Spanish exceptional regard for relations when speaking the language and would quickly relapse when requested to engage in English.

According to (Skerrett, 2010), Spanish speaking is closely associated with openness about money. English speakers are predominantly secretive about monetary issues. This characteristic is often swiftly assumed by bilinguals when they revert to the language. The author explains that one unmissable contrast between English and Spanish speaking populace is their level of festivity. The Spanish love for celebrations is far much superior, even incomparable. British speakers exhibit temperamental moderation, even in the face of a festival. They do not easily adjust or assume a sudden happy mood when confronted with an opportunity to party. This tradition is firmly ingrained into their culture. Bilingual speakers often find themselves immersed in a carnival disposition whenever such an opportunity occurs. They identify with the Spanish culture. The shift is often swift and rarely noticed by the speaker. They espouse and completely embrace the cultural undertones of the language they are speaking.

In his book, Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. The International Encyclopedia of Language and Social Interaction, O'Neill (2015) opines that one of the most pronounced instances of language instituted behavioural change is the expression of romance. Traditionally, Spanish speakers are known to be exceedingly sentimental. They embrace emotionality to a significant extent when intimating their intrinsic feelings. However, this is often manifested in their expression of romantic messages. Bilinguals exhibiting their romantic side in Spanish are far likely to include more passionate connotations than English speakers even when they are native Englishmen. This phenomenon serves to cement the hypothesis that language has a significant bearing on thought and behaviour.

The Research Hypothesis

This article hypothesizes that the language spoken by a person directly impacts their thoughts, hence, influences their actions.

The Research Rationale

The fundamental principles of language influences on thought and behaviour were study individually. Hussein (2012) observed that human prejudices, preferences, thoughts, and perspectives were developed in a person's mind. Such process were noted to be unrelated to the conception of language and culture. Language is observed a mere medium for information exchange. As O'Neill (2015) explains, the connection between the two traits was explicitly explored in the enlightenment period. Scholars determined that language was subordinate to human thought, emotion, and feelings in the idea formulation process. Initially, it was commonly believed that language was formulate entirely out of rational thinking. As such, it had no hidden emotional connotations.

Skerrett (2010) adds that this would quickly change with the discovery that language had an inherent capability to alter the social order within a given community of speakers. This characteristic cannot be alienated from language. Additionally, language is used by members of a society to appreciate diversity and exhibit more tolerance for other ethnicities. Speaking a given language offers a divine sense of pride and accomplishment. It relishes on the speaker, a great sense of power over non-speakers. This allows the speaker to appreciate different cultural perspectives, hence, become more tolerable. They begin to understand the cultures of the groups whom they speak their language. English-speaking Spanish and Spanish-speaking English bilinguals often embraces a personality akin to the language they speak and may even appear part of that grouping. They understand and readily accommodate this grouping. It is an interesting relationship that most certainly requires more intimate investigation hence, potentiating the need for this research article.

Theoretical Perspective

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis dictates that the social world revolves around the linguistic mannerisms of various cultural groups. According to Saunders & Lewis (2009), the practices and experiences exhibited by the individuals are based solely on they chose to perceive the environment around them. Mother languages and cultures often show a great extent of affect as a result of continued use of the second one. When English-Spanish bilinguals were placed in different environments, the development of depression and anxiety was noted to decrease when they settled into their secondary languages. They were comfortable despite the predominantly utilized language being foreign to them. Having the ability to sufficiently speak it offer them the assurance they were accepted and free to behave in a manner consistent with the cues of that environment.

Vocabulary equivalent insufficiency was noted to have a minimal impact on the thoughts and perceptions though it greatly influenced the level of interaction between bilingual Spanish-English speakers. Skerrett (2010) observes that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is segmented into two key sections; linguistic relativity and linguistic relativism, both of which describe language and the thought formation process as extremely closely related.


The primary methodology utilized in this article is descriptive research. Many peer-reviewed journal articles and books have been written on the subject. As such, there exists plenty of secondary data on the subject. The sources have been studied and critiqued over time. As such, they have been declared bonafied research material. They have been assessed for reliability and validity and the data they hold, found to be consistent with experimental findings. Descriptive research is particularly beneficial in this context as it offers an inexpensive data collection an analysis technique. Unlike other contemporary methods, descriptive research involves the analysis of readily available material. The books and articles can be derived online or can be found in libraries. The data has been processed, further making the work of the researcher easier.


The article investigates the relationship between the language and thoughts. Language is a primary medium of expression. It is an inherent characteristic that has been subject to and improved by extensive evolution. Consequently, it has been honed to become an intricate part of any community's cultural fabric. Scholars believe that language has developed to become a force for behavioural alteration. Speakers have been observed to be inevitably influenced by languages. The effect has been extensive and has been noted to extend to non-native speakers. This research supposes that there exists a strong possibility of an individual's thinking being extensively influenced by linguistics with special focus being placed on Spanish and English speakers.

The study is important to the scientific community for one primary reason, it enables one to predict a speaker's potential course of action. Bilingual or multilingual speakers are bound to behave in a different way every time they speak a given language. Their conduct is generally believed to be consistent with their perception and interpretation of the world around them in that particular language. Variations in the conduct of such persons can be noted and logged against the specific subjects they were conversing on. The expression of emotion or outlying behaviour can then be recorded. The recordings provide important scientific information critical in the development of a discernible behavioural pattern.

When behavioural patterns instituted by the speaking of a given language is studied over time, one can develop concrete scientific data. This information can be used to apt describe the manifestation of a given trait when the speaker is exposed to a given stimuli. As such, scientists can understand the association a language has in instituting a given emotional, mental, and physical response from a given speaker.


The research observed that language was a key component on an individual's behavioural and thought patterns. Sapir-Whorf hypothesis was utilized to develop several perspectives to explain how thought and behaviour, and language was related. English and Spanish bilinguals were sampled for the exercise. The group provided an especially important study prospect as the two languages have dominant cultural expressions. As such, the effect of language on the participants could be easily studied. The analysis was especially critical in confirming the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. However, many scholars have disputed the notion that a given language inherently impacts a given community's thinking. They find the assumption general and non-representative. Scholars have noted that the hypothesis is in blatant disregard of conventional empirical scientific protocol owing to its blanket declaration and speculative nature.

A common illustration is that of Kenya and Hong Kong. Both countries were British colonies and have utilized English as their official language. They have Swahili and Mandarin as their predominant first language. In 1970, they were at the same economic level with Hong Kong requesting loans and technical expertise from its relatively rich African counterpart. However, their economic status is not comparable despite all factors remaining constant. Critics commonly utilize this example to further the null hypothesis that the relationship between thought and language does not exist or is never fully understood. All in all, most publications support the understanding that the decisions made and by a person bears a striking correlation with the language they speak confirming the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.


Hussein, B. A. S. (2012). The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis Today. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 2(3), 642.

O'Neill, S. P. (2015). Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. The International Encyclopedia of Language and Social Interaction.

Perlovsky, L. (2009). Language and emotions: emotional Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Neural Networks, 22(5), 518-526.

Saunders, M. L., & Lewis, P. (2009). P. & Thornhill, A.(2009). Research methods for business students, 4.

Skerrett, D. M. (2010). Can the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis save the planet? Lessons from cross-cultural psychology for critical language policy. Current Issues in Language Planning, 11(4), 331-340.

March 10, 2023

Science Life Psychology

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