Edward Sapir


Edward Sapir

Linguist, Anthropologist, Humanist

Regna Darnell
With a new introduction by the author

520 pages
15 illustrations, 1 map, 2 tables


July 2010


$40.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

This first full-scale biography of Edward Sapir (1884–1939) does justice to the life and ideas of the most distinguished linguist of Boasian anthropology, who contributed substantially to the professionalization of linguistics as an independent discipline.
Sapir was the first to apply comparative Indo-European methods to the study of American Indian languages, pursuing fieldwork on more than twenty of them. His theoretical work on the relationship between the individual personality and culture remains a major part of culture theory in anthropology, as does his insistence on the symbolic nature of culture and the importance of culture as understood and articulated by its members. The first professional anthropologist in Canada and teacher of a whole generation of North American linguists and anthropologists at Chicago and Yale, Sapir also wrote poetry and literary criticism. He insisted on the humanistic nature of anthropology and was the most articulate spokesman for the interdisciplinary social science of the late 1920s and 1930s.
All the richness and diversity of Sapir’s relatively short life are conveyed by Regna Darnell in an engrossing narrative that combines profound knowledge of her subject with historical reconstruction.

Author Bio

Regna Darnell is Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and First Nations Studies at the University of Western Ontario. She is the author or editor of several books, including Invisible Genealogies: A History of Americanist Anthropology (Nebraska 2001), and coeditor (with Frederic W. Gleach) of Celebrating a Century of the American Anthropological Association: Presidential Portraits (Nebraska 2002).


“Darnell has made a major contribution to the history of anthropology, and her work is likely to remain the definitive one.”—L. Kimball, Choice

“This complex biography of Edward Sapir’s life and ideas offers fresh insights, opens up further avenues of inquiry, and challenges us to ask new questions.”—Barrik Van Winkle, American Indian Quarterly

“A revealing account of Sapir’s professional career and, from that perspective, his role in the history of linguistics and anthropology in North America.”—Ward H. Goodenough, American Anthropologist

“[Darnell has] drawn a fine, full picture of Sapir, dissolving a mythic image in a real life. It is an excellent biography and a major contribution to the history of the profession.”—Richard J. Preston, American Ethnologist

Table of Contents

1 - The Early Years
  Columbia University
  The Undergraduate Years
  The Graduate Years
2 - Apprenticeship
  The University of Pennsylvania
  False Starts
3 - Ottawa: Maturity and Independence
  Organizing Anthropological Research in Canada
  Public Affairs
  The Tribulations of Museum Anthropology
4 - The Ottawa Research Team
  Sapir's Ottawa Fieldwork
  Ishi: A Brief Return to California
  World War I and Its Aftermath
5 - Synthesizing the Boasian Paradigm
  The Phonetics Report
  Time Perspective
  Language: The Public Statement
6 - The Classification of American Indian Languages
  The Beginnings of the Classificatory Mania
  The Radin Fiasco
  The Six-Unit Classification
  The Indo-Chinese Hypothesis
7 - Reorientation toward Psychology
  Family and Personal Problems
  Early Contacts with Psychology
  Kroeber: Psychoanalysis and the Superorganic
8 - Experiments in Aesthetics
  An Experiment with the Aesthetics of Design
  Ottawa Intellectual and Social Life
  The Effects of War
9 - Psychologizing Boasian Anthropology
  Ruth Benedict
  Margaret Mead
10 - Escape from Ottawa
  Boasian Machinations at Columbia
  Sapir's Appointment at Chicago
  The Continued Lure of Columbia
11 - The University of Chicago: A New Start
  The University of Chicago
  Chicago Sociology
  Sapir and the Chicago Sociologists
  Rockefeller Foundation Funding in Chicago
12 - Chicago Anthropology
  The Anthropological Fiefdom
  Sapir's Teaching at Chicago
13 - Sapir's Commitment to Athabaskan
  Collaboration with Father Berard Haile
  The Southwest Laboratory of Anthropology
  Publishing Navajo Texts
  The Bureau of Indian Affairs
14 - The Professionalization of Linguistics
  The Linguistic Society of America
  The Linguistic Institutes
  Leonard Bloomfield
  IALA and English Semantics
  The Committee on American Indian Languages
15 - Interdisciplinary Social Science
  Harry Stack Sullivan
  Harold Lasswell
  The Social Science Research Council
  The Hanover Conferences
  Sapir's American Indian Acculturation Project
  The SSRC Committee on Personality and Culture
16 - Organizing Social Science Research and Training
  The First Colloquium
  The Second Colloquium
  The National Research Council
  The NRC Culture and Personality Conference
  The NRC Subcommittee on Training Fellowships
17 - The Impact Seminar: The Call to Yale
  The Call to Columbia
  The Frank Seminar Proposal
  John Dollard
  Selection of the Fellows
  The Program of the Seminar
  Results of the Impact Seminar
18 - The Academic Program at Yale: Anthropology
  Yale Students in Ethnology
19 - The Academic Program at Yale: Linguistics
  Sapir's Return to Indo-European
  The First Yale School of Linguistics
  Whorf and the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis
20 - The Yale Institute of Human Relations
  The Medical School Alternative
  Dollard's Realignment with the IHR
21 - Dénouement
  Sapir's Relation to Judaism
  Illness and Retreat
  Sapir's Initial Illness
  The Sapir-Sullivan-Lasswell Research Institute
  The Final Illness
  Responses to Sapir's Death
  Archival Documents
  Institutional Abbreviations
  Journal Abbreviations
  References Cited
  Complete Bibliography of Edward Sapir

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