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Journal Article

Studying spatial conceptualization across cultures: Anthropology and cognitive science


Levinson,  Stephen C.
Language and Cognition Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Levinson, S. C. (1998). Studying spatial conceptualization across cultures: Anthropology and cognitive science. Ethos, 26(1), 7-24. doi:10.1525/eth.1998.26.1.7.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-2ABE-6
Philosophers, psychologists, and linguists have argued that spatial conception is pivotal to cognition in general, providing a general, egocentric, and universal framework for cognition as well as metaphors for conceptualizing many other domains. But in an aboriginal community in Northern Queensland, a system of cardinal directions informs not only language, but also memory for arbitrary spatial arrays and directions. This work suggests that fundamental cognitive parameters, like the system of coding spatial locations, can vary cross-culturally, in line with the language spoken by a community. This opens up the prospect of a fruitful dialogue between anthropology and the cognitive sciences on the complex interaction between cultural and universal factors in the constitution of mind.