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Humboldt, Worldview and Language$
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James Underhill

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780748638420

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748638420.001.0001

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(p.20) Chapter 4 Boas
Humboldt, Worldview and Language

W. Underhill James

Edinburgh University Press

This short chapter stresses the importance of Franz Boas’ empirical field research for the study of languages and anthropology, and especially for doing away with the idea of ‘primitive’ languages. It questions the idea that language ‘limits’ thought, and suggests that Boas tended to see grammatical and linguistic forms as ‘channels’ offered up to thinking individuals. Boas believed cultures found different ways of expressing themselves, and that thinking-in-language remains flexible in all cultures.

Keywords:   Classification, Culture, Determinism, ‘Primitive’ Languages, Social Darwinism

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