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Edward Sapir Quick Facts

Tags: sapir language
Edward Sapir is a German-born American linguist, anthropologist, and essayist.

Edward Sapir (1884-1939) Quick Facts


  • Birth Name: Edward Sapir
  • Date of Birth: January 26, 1884
  • Place of Birth: Lauenburg, Pomerania, Germany
  • Date of Death: February 4, 1939
  • Place of Death: New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut, USA
  • Cause of Death: Stroke
  • Interred at: Sapir Family Cemetery, Alton, Belknap County, New Hampshire, USA
  • Zodiac Sign: Aquarius
  • Nationality: American
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Religion: Jewish
  • Father: Jacob David Sapir (1861-1931)
  • Mother: Eva Sapir née Seagal (1863-1938)
  • Siblings: Max Sapir
  • Spouse(s):
  1. Florence Delson (b. 1889 d. 1924 m. 1910 to until her death)
  2. Jean Victoria McClenaghan Sapir (b. 1899 d. 1977 m. 1926 to until his death)
  • Children (from first marriage):
  1. Son -  Herbert Michael Sapir(1913)
  2. Daughter-  Helen Ruth Larson(1914)
  3. Son - Philip Sapir
  • Children (from second marriage):
  1. Son - Paul Edward Sapir
  2. Son - J. David Sapir
  • Alma Mater: Columbia University
  • Edward Sapir is known for: Classification of Native American languages; postulation of Linguistic Relativity or Sapir–Whorf hypothesis; ethnolinguistics; development of modern concept of the phoneme.
  • Edward Sapir is criticized for: NA
  • Edward Sapir was influenced by: Franz Boas
  • Edward Sapir influenced: Morris Swadesh, Li Fanggui, Benjamin Whorf, Mary Haas, Harry Hoijer, Zellig S. Harris, G. L. Trager, and Charles F. Voegelin.


“Were a language ever completely "grammatical" it would be a perfect engine of conceptual expression. Unfortunately, or luckily, no language is tyrannically consistent. All grammars leak.”  ― Edward Sapir, Language (1921) p. 39

Major Works

  • Time Perspective in Aboriginal American Culture: A Study in Method (1916)
  • Language (1921)

Did You Know?

  • Edward Sapir was born into a Lithuanian Jewish family.
  • His parents emigrated to United States in 1890 when he was only five years old.
  • In the United States his family first started living in Richmond, Virginia and then shifted to Lower East Side of New York City.
  • At the age of fourteen, Sapir won a prestigious Pulitzer scholarship in recognition of his aptitude for academics and languages.
  • After attending Columbia University from 1900-1904 on the previously attained Pulitzer scholarship, Sapir graduated in 1904 with a B.A. in linguistics.
  • In 1905, with Dr. Boas' encouragement, Sapir completed an M.A. in German.
  • Sapir spent 1907-1908 as a research associate at the University of California at Berkeley.
  • He earned his Ph.D. in anthropology in 1909, with a dissertation on the Takelma language of southwestern Oregon.
  • In 1910, he was appointed director of anthropology in the Geological Survey of the Canadian National Museum, a post he held until 1924.
  • His younger brother Max died of Typhoid.
  • Sapir’s parents divorced in 1910.
  • Before going to Canada, Sapir had a short affair with the Anthropologist Margaret Mead.
  • In 1910 Sapir espoused Florence Delson, a distant cousin, who also had Lithuanian Jewish roots.
  • Florence had long been suffered from both physical and mental illness and she died in 1924.
  • After Florence’s death Sapir started to raise his three children alone. However, eventually, his mother aided him in raising the children.
  • He opted to write poetry, compose music, and study psychology to overcome depression ensued from his wife’s demise.
  • In 1925 Sapir accepted the invitation to join the department of anthropology at the University of Chicago.
  • In 1926 he was married again, to Jean McClenaghan who was sixteen years younger than Sapir.
  • From the second marriage Sapir had two children.
  • In 1931, he accepted an offer to become Sterling Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics at Yale University.
  • His son, J. David Sapir, is a linguist, anthropologist specializing in West African Languages, especially Jola languages. He is Emeritus professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia. Besides, he is also a photographer.
  • Edward Sapir died at the age of fifty five of stroke.

Media Gallery

Edward Sapir (1884-1939)

Edward Sapir (1884-1939)

Edward Sapir (1884-1939)

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