Linguistics Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

What is the difference between linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity? I know that they are both part of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, but I cannot understand the exact difference between them.

Expert Answers info

Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write5,600 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The main difference between the concepts is the amount of flexibility that each conveys about human abilities. As the term suggests, “linguistic determinism” indicates that certain features within a culture “determine” the language that its members learn and the underlying concepts expressed through that language. However, the degree to which culture corresponds to human beings’ natural abilities became an issue with this line of thinking. Edward Sapir believed that the patterns that people learn as babies cannot be altered. The need to modify Sapir’s claim became apparent because of the association between what is natural with different cultural characteristics. Such an association allows for the inference that some human groups are more capable of complex thought, a division that some interpreters might attribute to race.

Whorf’s modification of the theory was significant because it emphasize culture, or environment and upbringing, over nature, or innate capability. An...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 972 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write5,917 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business









Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write35,413 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


studentinib | Student

Thank you!