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Words and the MindHow words capture human experience$
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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 and Thought

Language and Thought

Which Side Are You on, Anyway?

(p.165) 8 Language and Thought
Words and the Mind

Terry Regier

Paul Kay

Aubrey L. Gilbert

Richard B. Ivry

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on color naming, and color cognition and perception. It first reviews the debate over color naming and cognition, highlighting the apparent conflation of the following questions — Are semantic distinctions in languages determined by largely arbitrary linguistic convention? Do semantic differences cause corresponding cognitive or perceptual differences in speakers of different languages? — in that debate. It suggests how some recent findings help to distinguish these questions and lead to the conclusion of universal tendencies in naming, coupled with Whorfian effects of language on thought. It shows that Whorfian effects of language on perception may be dominant in the right visual field. The “Whorf on the right” suggestion is a general one, and is expected to hold for other semantic domains as well. The chapter concludes with a discussion of what these findings mean for the language and thought debate generally, and what useful role, if any, the traditional framing of the debate may play in the future.

Keywords:   color naming, color cognition, perception, semantics, whorfian effects, right visual field

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