From Linguistic Determinism to Technological Determinism

From Linguistic Determinism to Technological Determinism

Russell H. Kaschula, Andre M. Mostert
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch447
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Technology has become autonomous. It has fashioned an omnivorous world which obeys its own laws (Ellul, 1964, p. 14).

Technology remains a relatively under-theorised category within the critical realist literature (Lawson, 2004, p 1).

Our technologies are racing ahead but many of our skills and organizations are lagging behind (Brynjolfsoon & McAfee, 2011, p, 171).



Sociolinguistic theory recognizes a continuum between language and thought, ‘mould theories’ and ‘cloak theories’. Mould theories characterize language as ‘…a mould in terms of which thought categories are cast’ (Bruner et al., 1956, p. 11), while cloak theories offer the role of language as ‘…a cloak conforming to the customary categories of thought of its speakers’ (Bruner et al., 1956, p. 11). This distinction is further developed when addressing the ‘Sapir-Whorf hypothesis’, which is associated with the two principles of linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity, where in the case of the former, our thought patterns are determined by our language, while in the case of the latter, speakers of different languages perceive and interact with the world differently (Chandler, 1995, p. 89; Anthonissen & Kaschula, 1995, p. 17).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Endoglossic: When a language is the native language of all or most of the population of a region.

Mutual Intelligibility: Refers to different varieties or dialects of a particular language which are understood by all the speakers of that language.

Ethnolinguistics: The study of language in relation to a particular ethnic group.

Linguistic Prejudice: A judgmental, denigrating attitude towards the language or language variety spoken by others.

Human Computer Interaction: Multidisciplinary field of HCI addressing the technical and cognitive issues associated with the interplay between humans and computers.

Linguistic Inequality: Refers to the inability to manipulate a particular variety of a language within a particular context, either through lack of exposure or through some form of disadvantage.

Linguistic Repertoire: The variety of languages used by the members of a particular speech community.

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: Holds that language determines how people think and people with different languages frame thought differently.

Communicative Competence: The ability to use grammatical sentences in a language and in the appropriate context, at the right time and place. It involves both grammatical and cultural competence.

Digital Literacy: Refers to the ability to understand and process information in digital formats.

Technological Literacy: As opposed to digital literacy, refers to the ability to use tools to access, manage and communicate information.

Multilingual: Refers to a person who knows and uses three or more languages.

Ethnographer: A scholar interested in the study of life and culture in society, especially by personal observation.

Discourse: Language which has been produced as a result of an act of communication, and which is unified and meaningful.

Sociolinguistics: The study of language in relation to society and culture.

Linguistic Determinism: The contention that language determines thought.

Dialectic: A method of argument that assesses contradictory facts or ideas with the view to a synthesis of ideas and resolving contradictions.

Critical Language Awareness: Also known as CLA which focuses on the way language is used to dominate, manipulate and subjugate others.

Ethnography of Communication: The study of the place of language in culture and society.

Language Proficiency: A person’s skill in using language for a specific purpose.

Exoglossic: When a language is not the native language of all or most of the population of a region.

Monolingual Communities: A community which knows and uses only one language.

Technological Leapfrogging: The idea that developing societies can leapfrog and take centre stage in the adoption of new technologies to promote social and economic development.

Language Planners: Refers to people in authoritative positions who determine the status of various languages in a particular society.

Domain: An area of human activity in which one particular speech variety or a combination of several speech varieties is regularly used.

Bill of Rights: A statement of the basic human rights recognised and protected by law in a particular society.

Lingua Franca: A common language which is used for communication by different language groups, many of whom will be speaking a language other than their mother tongue.

Ethnomethodology: How language is used in everyday activities such as conversation between people of different backgrounds.

Social Network Sites: Are digital platforms where people share interests and communicate through different technologies.

Technological Relativity: The possibility that access to different technological capabilities could result in differences in thought patterns.

Technological Determinism: Argues that technology frames thought.

Language Singularity: an integration of language and technology capabilities to produce a common easily accessible form of communication between all humans immaterial of their home language or language capabilities.

Hypothesis: A speculation concerning either observed or expected relationship among phenomenon, which are not yet proven.

Globalisation: The process of international integration of economies, societies and cultures.

Multicultural: Refers to a situation in which there is more than one set of cultural beliefs, values, and attitudes.

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