Do words reveal concepts?

Barbara C. Malt, Eef Ameel, Silvia Gennari, Mutsumi Imai, Noburo Saji, Asifa Majid

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

To study concepts, cognitive scientists must first identify some. The prevailing assumption is that they are revealed by words such as triangle, table, and robin. But languages vary dramatically in how they carve up the world by name. Either ordinary concepts must be heavily language-dependent or names cannot be a direct route to concepts. We asked English, Dutch, Spanish, and Japanese speakers to name videos of human locomotion and judge their similarities. We investigated what name inventories and scaling solutions on name similarity and on physical similarity for the groups individually and together suggest about the underlying concepts. Aggregated naming and similarity solutions converged on results distinct from the answers suggested by any single language. Words such as triangle, table, and robin help identify the conceptual space of a domain, but they do not directly reveal units of knowledge usefully considered “concepts.”

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExpanding the Space of Cognitive Science - Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2011
EditorsLaura Carlson, Christoph Hoelscher, Thomas F. Shipley
PublisherThe Cognitive Science Society
Pages519-524
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780976831877
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Event33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Expanding the Space of Cognitive Science, CogSci 2011 - Boston, United States
Duration: 2011 Jul 202011 Jul 23

Publication series

NameExpanding the Space of Cognitive Science - Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2011

Conference

Conference33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Expanding the Space of Cognitive Science, CogSci 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBoston
Period11/7/2011/7/23

Keywords

  • concepts
  • cross-linguistic diversity
  • locomotion
  • naming
  • universality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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