Language-relative construal of individuation constrained by universal ontology: Revisiting language universals and linguistic relativity

Mutsumi Imai, Reiko Mazuka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objects and substances bear fundamentally different ontologies. In this article, we examine the relations between language, the ontological distinction with respect to individuation, and the world. Specifically, in cross-linguistic developmental studies that follow Imai and Gentner (1997), we examine the question of whether language influences our thought in different forms, like (1) whether the language-specific construal of entities found in a word extension context (Imai & Gentner, 1997) is also found in a nonlinguistic classification context; (2) whether the presence of labels per se, independent of the count-mass syntax, fosters ontology-based classification; (3) in what way, if at all, the count-mass syntax that accompanies a label changes English speakers' default construal of a given entity? On the basis of the results, we argue that the ontological distinction concerning individuation is universally shared and functions as a constraint on early learning of words. At the same time, language influences one's construal of entities cross-lingistically and developmentally, and causes a temporary change of construal within a single language. We provide a detailed discussion of how each of these three ways language may affect the construal of entities, and discuss how our universally possessed knowledge interacts with language both within a single language and in cross-linguistic context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-413
Number of pages29
JournalCognitive Science
Volume31
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007 May

Fingerprint

Individuation
Relativity
personality development
Linguistics
ontology
Ontology
Labels
Language
linguistics
language
syntax
Language Universals
Linguistic Relativity
Construal
Learning
cause
Entity

Keywords

  • Individuation
  • Language acquisition
  • Language and thought
  • Linguistic relativity
  • Ontological concepts
  • Role of language in conceptual development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Language-relative construal of individuation constrained by universal ontology : Revisiting language universals and linguistic relativity. / Imai, Mutsumi; Mazuka, Reiko.

In: Cognitive Science, Vol. 31, No. 3, 05.2007, p. 385-413.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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