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Linguistic determinism

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❶Like semiotics , which argues that a single grammar exists prior to all human activity although the grammar of semiotics is not strictly linguistic , these linguistic determinists say that the structures, hierarchies, and hidden associations of our individual human languages determine the conclusions that we reach in our logic, the aspirations of our lived lives, and all our emotional content.

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definition - Linguistic determinism

That is, the words we possess determine the things that we can know. If we have an experience, we are confined not just in our communication of it, but also in our knowledge of it, by the words we possess. From an entirely different starting point, the Sapir—Whorf hypothesis argues that individuals experience the world based on the grammatical structures they habitually use.

For example, speakers of different languages may see different numbers of bands in a rainbow. Since rainbows are actually a continuum of color, there are no empirical stripes or bands, and yet people see as many bands as their language possesses primary color words.

See Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution. Although neither Edward Sapir nor his student Benjamin Lee Whorf ever wrote a "hypothesis" of this nature, writings such as Whorf's The Relation of Thought and Behavior to Language make arguments based on a version of linguistic determinism [ citation needed ].

A separate angle on linguistic determinism maintains that language is the only thing that is ever known. The objective world is entirely removed by the presence of language. It is perceived, but human life is determined by having language and by the language's own internal demands. Linguistic determinism is a partial assumption behind a number of recent developments in rhetoric and literary theory. For example, Jacques Derrida 's project of deconstruction aims to break apart the terms of "paradigmatic" hierarchies.

Derrida's targets are the latter. Similarly, Michel Foucault 's New Historicism posits that there is a quasi-linguistic structure present in any age, a metaphor around which all things that can be understood are organized. This "epistem" determines the questions that people can ask and the answers they can receive.

The epistem changes historically: When ages move into new epistems, the science, religion, and art of the past age look absurd. Some neo-Marxist historians have similarly looked at culture as always encoded in a language that changes with the material conditions.

As the dialectic struggle of economic forces clash and synthesize, so too do the language constructs. The possibility of linguistic determinism has been explored by a variety of authors, mostly in science fiction.

Also, there actually exist some languages that have been constructed for the purpose of testing the assumption. Other studies supporting the principle of linguistic determinism have shown that people find it easier to recognize and remember shades of colors for which they have a specific name.

Linguistic determinism can also be evident in situations where the means of drawing attention to a certain aspect of an experience is language. For example, in French, Spanish or Russian there are two ways to address a person because those languages have two second person pronouns — singular and plural. The choice of the pronoun depends on the relationship between the two people formal or informal and the degree of familiarity between them. In this respect, the speaker of any of those languages is always thinking about the relationship when addressing another person and therefore unable to separate those two processes.

These individuals could not conceive numbers beyond 'one' and 'two', for which there are no actual terms in their language. After this all numbers are grouped under the term 'many. However, linguistic determinism has been widely criticized for its absolutism and refuted by linguists. For instance, Michael Frank et. Another argument against the principle of linguistic determinism is that humans are able to perceive objects and events that have no corresponding words in our mental lexicon, even if existing linguistic representations would make the perception easier.

Opponents of the theory maintain that thought exists prior to any conception of language. Steven Pinker's theory embodies this idea. He proposed that all individuals are first capable of a "universal mentalese", of which all thought is composed prior to its linguistic form. Language then enables us to articulate these already existing thoughts into words and linguistic concepts.

For example, one may perceive different colors even while missing a particular word for each shade, like New Guinea aborigines can distinguish between the colors green and blue even though they have only one lexical entry to describe both colors. In its weaker form, however, the proposal that language influences our thinking has frequently been discussed and studied. Linguistic determinism is a partial assumption behind a number of recent [ when?

Similarly, Michel Foucault 's New Historicism theory posits that there is a quasi-linguistic structure present in any age, a metaphor around which all things that can be understood are organized. This " episteme " determines the questions that people can ask and the answers they can receive.

The episteme changes historically: When ages move into new epistemes, the science, religion, and art of the past age look absurd. Some Neo-Marxist historians [ who? As the environment changes, so too do the language constructs. It is perceived, but human life is determined by having language and by the language's own internal demands.

Like semiotics , which argues that a single grammar exists prior to all human activity although the grammar of semiotics is not strictly linguistic , these linguistic determinists say that the structures, hierarchies, and hidden associations of our individual human languages determine the conclusions that we reach in our logic, the aspirations of our lived lives, and all our emotional content.

Linguistic determinism is a partial assumption behind a number of recent developments in rhetoric and literary theory. For example, Jacques Derrida 's project of deconstruction aims to break apart the terms of "paradigmatic" hierarchies. Derrida's targets are the latter. Similarly, Michel Foucault 's New Historicism posits that there is a quasi-linguistic structure present in any age, a metaphor around which all things that can be understood are organized.

This "epistem" determines the questions that people can ask and the answers they can receive. The epistem changes historically: When ages move into new epistems, the science, religion, and art of the past age looks absurd. Some neo-Marxist historians have similarly looked at culture as encoded always in a language that changes with the material conditions.


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Linguistic determinism is the idea that language and its structures limit and determine human knowledge or thought, as well as thought processes such as categorization, memory, and perception. The term implies that people who speak different languages as their .

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Linguistic determinism is the idea that language shapes thought. Determinism itself refers to the viewpoint that all events are caused by previous events, and linguistic determinism can be used broadly to refer to a number of specific views.

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Linguistic determinism is the idea that language and its structures limit and determine human knowledge or thought. Determinism itself refers to the viewpoint that all events are caused by previous events, and linguistic determinism can be used broadly to refer to a number of specific views. linguistic determinism Quick Reference A range of views in which our thinking (or worldview) is seen as being determined or shaped by language—simply by the use of verbal language and/or by the grammatical structures, semantic distinctions, and inbuilt ontologies within a language.

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Linguistic determinism can best be demonstrated in situations in which language is the principal means of drawing people's attention to a particular aspect of experience. Linguistic Determinism. Linguistic Determinism is a concept taken from the narrow field of analytic philosophy and postulates that human language limits and determines human thought patterns and knowledge. This concept makes an assumption that language both reflects and limits human mentality and its ability to make cross-cultural connections.