Wilhelm von Humboldt, Edward Sapir, and the constructivist framework
Striking similarities between Edward Sapir’s views on language and those of Wilhelm von Humboldt have long been apparent. Because of the avoidance of documentation in his writings, however, it has proved to be impossible to demonstrate the extent of Sapir’s direct familiarity with the works of Humboldt and his commitment to a Humboldtian language philosophy. Rather than pursuing the question of how Sapir might have been influenced by Humboldt, the present article explores the Sapirian philosophical framework for the treatment of both language and culture in comparison with that found in the works of Humboldt. It is shown that even without direct evidence of the influence of the works of Humboldt on Sapir it is possible to see in Sapir’s writings on language, cultural anthropology, and even aesthetics a commitment to a general constructivist philosophical framework remarkably similar to that found in Humboldt.
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