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Barbara Malt and Phillip Wolff

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195311129

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195311129.001.0001

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Language Structure, Lexical Meaning, and Cognition

Language Structure, Lexical Meaning, and Cognition

Whorf and Vygotsky Revisited

(p.266) 13 Language Structure, Lexical Meaning, and Cognition
Words and the Mind

John A. Lucy

Oxford University Press

This chapter is divided into three sections. The first articulates a view of lexemes and lexical meaning that provides a salient place for grammatical and semantic structure. The second section links this view of lexical meaning to traditional theories about the relation of language and thought in the work of Whorf and Vygotsky. The discussion makes clear that both theorists saw language structures as the principal locus of linguistic influences on thought, and argues that this provides a key connection that allows comparative and developmental theories to be joined into a unified position. The third section presents an empirical case study that compares two language groups — American English and Yucatec Maya — showing empirically how structural factors shape the referential value of individual lexical forms, and how those referential values then influence cognition both developmentally and comparatively. The concluding discussion rethinks the course of language development and human development more generally, in light of these language effects.

Keywords:   lexical meaning, lexical form, lexemes, language, thought, american English, yucatec Maya

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