Similarity judgments reflect both language and cross-language tendencies: Evidence from two semantic domains
Khetarpal, N., Majid, A., Malt, B. C., Sloman, S., & Regier, T.
Similarity judgments reflect both language and cross-language tendencies: Evidence from two semantic domains. In S. Ohlsson, & R. Catrambone (Eds.
), Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
(pp. 358-363). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Many theories hold that semantic variation in the world’s
languages can be explained in terms of a universal conceptual
space that is partitioned differently by different languages.
Recent work has supported this view in the semantic domain
of containers (Malt et al., 1999), and assumed it in the domain
of spatial relations (Khetarpal et al., 2009), based in both
cases on similarity judgments derived from pile-sorting of
stimuli. Here, we reanalyze data from these two studies and
find a more complex picture than these earlier studies
suggested. In both cases we find that sorting is similar across
speakers of different languages (in line with the earlier
studies), but nonetheless reflects the sorter’s native language
(in contrast with the earlier studies). We conclude that there
are cross-culturally shared conceptual tendencies that can be
revealed by pile-sorting, but that these tendencies may be
modulated to some extent by language. We discuss the
implications of these findings for accounts of semantic variation.