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Can language restructure cognition? The case for space

Majid, A., Bowerman, M., Kita, S., Haun, D. B. M., & Levinson, S. C. (2004). Can language restructure cognition? The case for space. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8(3), 108-114. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2004.01.003.
Frames of reference are coordinate systems used to compute and specify the location of objects with respect to other objects. These have long been thought of as innate concepts, built into our neurocognition. However, recent work shows that the use of such frames in language, cognition and gesture varies crossculturally, and that children can acquire different systems with comparable ease. We argue that language can play a significant role in structuring, or restructuring, a domain as fundamental as spatial cognition. This suggests we need to rethink the relation between the neurocognitive underpinnings of spatial cognition and the concepts we use in everyday thinking, and, more generally, to work out how to account for cross-cultural cognitive diversity in core cognitive domains.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

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