Edward Sapir

Edward Sapir was born January 26, 1884 in Lauenberg, Germany. He and his family emigrated to the United States in 1889. After attending Columbia University from 1900-1904 on a Pultizer scholarship, Sapir graduated in 1904 with a BA in linguistics. It was as an undergraduate under Dr. Franz Boas that Sapir developed an interest in Native American liguistics and culture. In 1905, Dr. Sapir completed, with Dr. Boas' encouragement, an MA in German and did his first field work among the Wishram Indians in the state of Washington.

Dr. Sapir spent 1907-1908 as a research associate at the University of California at Berkeley, before receiving his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1909.

In 1910, he was appointed director of anthropology in the Geological Survey of the Canadian National Museum, a post he held until 1924. During those years, Dr. Sapir continued to do field work on the Northwest coast and to publish work on Yiddish and Judaic studies.

Dr. Sapir led the reaction against Dr. Alfred Kroeber's theory of the superorganic nature of culture, arguing against the cultural determinism implicit in Kroeber's theory, and favoring instead the active participation of individuals in the cultural process.

In 1925, he took an academic position at the University of Chicago where he worked on theoretical linguistics, psychology, and anthropology.

In 1931, he accepted an offer to become Sterling Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics at Yale University, where he organized a series of seminars in personality and culture based on his recognition, shared by Margaret Mead, of the importance of anthropological studies of personality to a new understanding of culture.

Dr. Sapir's most famous student was Benjamin Lee Whorf; together they developed the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis stating that language and culture were inextricably linked, the subconscious patterns of grammer influence the "world-view" of a speaker of a particular language. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis promoted many studies in psycholinguistics.

On February 4, 1939 Dr. Edward Sapir died. Although known as a linguist, he touched on many other fields through his origical thought and reserach, and a vast corpus of publications.