9 Questions

What was Edward Sapir's field of study?

Where was Edward Sapir born?

What did Sapir study at Columbia University?

What was Sapir's contribution to the study of Indigenous languages?

What was Sapir's contribution to the understanding of phonology?

What is the principle of linguistic relativity?

What was Sapir's view on the importance of psychology to anthropology?

What languages did Sapir specialize in studying?

What was Sapir's involvement with the International Auxiliary Language movement?


Edward Sapir: American Linguist and Anthropologist

  • Edward Sapir was an American anthropologist-linguist who made significant contributions to the development of linguistics in the United States.

  • Sapir was born in German Pomerania, in what is now northern Poland, and his family emigrated to the United States when he was a child.

  • He studied Germanic linguistics at Columbia University and was influenced by Franz Boas to work on Native American languages.

  • Sapir became an important linguist in North America while working for the Geological Survey of Canada for fifteen years.

  • He was the first to prove that the methods of comparative linguistics were equally valid when applied to indigenous languages.

  • Sapir's classification of Indigenous languages of the Americas, upon which he elaborated for most of his professional life, was significant.

  • He played an important role in developing the modern concept of the phoneme, greatly advancing the understanding of phonology.

  • Sapir studied the ways in which language and culture influence each other and was interested in the relation between linguistic differences and differences in cultural world views.

  • His work on the relationship between language and culture was developed by his student Benjamin Lee Whorf into the principle of linguistic relativity.

  • Sapir was an early proponent of the importance of psychology to anthropology, maintaining that studying the nature of relationships between different individual personalities is important for the ways in which culture and society develop.

  • He specialized in the study of Athabascan languages, Chinookan languages, and Uto-Aztecan languages, producing important grammatical descriptions of Takelma, Wishram, and Southern Paiute.

  • Sapir was invested in the development of an International Auxiliary Language and worked with Yiddish, Hebrew, and Chinese, as well as Germanic languages.Edward Sapir: Life, Work, and Legacy

  • Sapir was a Canadian-American anthropologist-linguist who became one of the most influential figures in the field of American anthropology.

  • Sapir's work focused on the study of language and culture and how the two are related.

  • Sapir worked with fellow Boasians, including Frank Speck, Paul Radin, and Alexander Goldenweiser, on the peoples of the Eastern Woodlands.

  • Sapir initiated work on the Athabascan languages of the Mackenzie valley and the Yukon, but he concentrated mainly on Nootka and the languages of the North West Coast.

  • Sapir acted as an advocate for Indigenous rights, arguing publicly for the introduction of better medical care for Indigenous communities.

  • Sapir traveled to San Francisco and worked with Ishi, the last native speaker of the Yahi language, closely related to Yana, and needed someone to document the language urgently.

  • Sapir was now more preoccupied with testing hypotheses about historical relationships between the Na-Dene languages than with documenting endangered languages, in effect becoming a theoretician.

  • Sapir came into his own as the leading figure in linguistics in North America during his period in Canada.

  • Sapir had a short affair with Margaret Mead, Benedict's protégé at Columbia.

  • Sapir's second wife, Jean Victoria McClenaghan, was sixteen years younger than he.

  • Sapir's anthropological thought has been described as isolated within the field of anthropology in his own days.

  • Sapir wrote prolifically in linguistics in general, and he was active in the international auxiliary language movement.


Test your knowledge on the life and work of Edward Sapir, a prominent American linguist and anthropologist. From his contributions to the development of linguistics in the United States to his work on the relationship between language and culture, this quiz covers the important aspects of Sapir's legacy. See how much you know about his studies on Indigenous languages, his role in developing the concept of phoneme, and his involvement in the international auxiliary language movement. Take the quiz and discover more about this influential figure

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