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Linguistic determinism is the idea that language and its structures limit and determine human knowledge or thought. The term encompasses a number of different theories of the nature and scope of these limits.
For example, Ludwig Wittgenstein expressed the following propositions in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world"; "The subject does not belong to the world, but it is a limit of the world"; "About what one can not speak, one must remain silent". This viewpoint forms part of the field of analytic philosophy.
Linguistic Determinism states that "implicit or explicit linguistic categorizations may partially determine or co-determine non-linguistic behavior (categorization, memory, perception, or thinking in general). The implied conclusion, then, is that individuals' thinking partially differs across linguistic communities". 
Linguistic relativity (popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis) is a form of linguistic determinism which argues that individuals experience the world based on the structure of the language they habitually use. For example, studies have shown that people find it easier to recognise and remember shades of colours for which they have a specific name.
Role in literary theory
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. (In language structures, some terms exist only with antonyms, such as light/dark, and others exist only with subordination, such as father/son and mother/daughter. Derrida's targets are the latter.) If one breaks apart the hidden hierarchies in language terms, one can open up a "lacuna" in understanding, an "aporia," and free the mind of the reader/critic. 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: as material conditions change, so the mental tropes change, and vice versa. 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. However, no formal tests appear to have been done.
Experimental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Linguistics have written and experimented on this hypothesis at length. See Hardin & Banaji, 1993; Ozgen, 2004; Davidoff, 2004; Roberson et al., 2004,2005;[full citation needed] for some experimental work done in this area.
- Hickmann, Maya (2000). "Linguistic relativity and linguistic determinism: some new directions". Linguistics 38 (2): 410. Retrieved 3/1/13.
- D'Andrade, Roy G. The Development of Cognitive Anthropology 1995: 185
- Whorf, B.L. (1956). "The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language." In J.B. Carroll (ed.) Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf (pp. 134–159). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-73006-5
- Everett, D.L. (2005). "Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Piraha: Another Look at the Design Features of Human Language" in Current Anthropology 46 (4) (August–October):621–646 (supplementary material in electronic edition at http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/CA/home.html).