Translation and the Cultural Dimension A Postcolonial-Poststructuralist Approach


Writing in the early twentieth century the American linguist and anthropologist Edward Sapir put forward what has come to be known as the " Relativity Hypothesis" , which postulates that every language imposes on its speakers a different world view. What follows from this hypothesis is that intercultural communication is hard if not impossible. As Sapir puts it: No two languages are sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The world in which different societies live are distinct worlds not merely the same world with different labels attached.(Sapir 1956: 69) Likewise, Benjamin Lee Whorf (1940) asserted that his experience of American and Hopi culture suggested to him that the cultures and thought processes were markedly different because their languages were so different. This led him to establish what he called the "linguistic relativity principle" , which states that users of markedly different grammars are pointed by their grammars toward different types of observations and different evaluations of externally similar acts of observation, and hence are not equivalent as observers but must arrive at somewhat different views of the world. (p. 221) In other words, language was viewed as having a direct influence on thougnt; thought is in the grip of language.


Tawfiq Yousef