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Cognitive Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Newman, John

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1613-3641
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Volume 26, Issue 1 (Feb 2015)

Issues

Vision verbs dominate in conversation across cultures, but the ranking of non-visual verbs varies

Lila San Roque
  • Corresponding author
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
  • Radboud University
  • Email:
/ Kobin H. Kendrick
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
  • Email:
/ Elisabeth Norcliffe
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
  • Email:
/ Penelope Brown
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
  • Email:
/ Rebecca Defina
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
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/ Mark Dingemanse
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
  • Email:
/ Tyko Dirksmeyer
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
  • Email:
/ NJ Enfield
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
  • University of Sydney
  • Email:
/ Simeon Floyd
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
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/ Jeremy Hammond
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
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/ Giovanni Rossi
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
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/ Sylvia Tufvesson
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
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/ Saskia van Putten
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
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/ Asifa Majid
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
  • Radboud University
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Published Online: 2014-12-23 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2014-0089

Abstract

To what extent does perceptual language reflect universals of experience and cognition, and to what extent is it shaped by particular cultural preoccupations? This paper investigates the universality~relativity of perceptual language by examining the use of basic perception terms in spontaneous conversation across 13 diverse languages and cultures. We analyze the frequency of perception words to test two universalist hypotheses: that sight is always a dominant sense, and that the relative ranking of the senses will be the same across different cultures. We find that references to sight outstrip references to the other senses, suggesting a pan-human preoccupation with visual phenomena. However, the relative frequency of the other senses was found to vary cross-linguistically. Cultural relativity was conspicuous as exemplified by the high ranking of smell in Semai, an Aslian language. Together these results suggest a place for both universal constraints and cultural shaping of the language of perception.

Keywords: perception; conversation; lexical frequency; vision; universality; relativity

About the article

Received: 2013-09-30

Revised: 2014-05-26

Accepted: 2014-07-23

Published Online: 2014-12-23

Published in Print: 2015-02-01


Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2014-0089. Export Citation

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[1]
Asifa Majid
Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2015

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