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'''Linguistic relativism''' refers to speculations about the varied influence of different languages upon thought. So-called "strong" forms of linguistic relativism are known as [[linguistic determinism]]: The [[Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis]] is the best known example, in so far as it proposes that perception and cognition is determined or constrained by characteristics that vary between languages. A "weak" interpretation supposes that linguistic differences may influence performance (in the Chomskyan sense), but do not limit competence. The term '''linguistic relativism''' is sometimes used specifically to refer to this weak form, as opposed to strong Whorfianism or linguistic determinism.
Linguistic relativism is often contrasted with theories of [[universal grammar]] (UG), notably as elaborated by [[Noam Chomsky]]. UG emphasizes the role of evolution in developing a universal "mental grammar" as a capacity of the human species, which is said to serve as a foundation for all natural languages. The concept of universal grammar does not preclude the notion that language has a role in the formation of thought, but suggests that the common biological basis for the human capacity of language provides a "deep structure" (or "logical form") that is a much stronger determinant than differences in the "surface structure" (or "phonetic form") between languages.