This is an appropriate moment to review the state of the art in cognitive anthropology, construed broadly as the comparative study of human cognition in its linguistic and cultural context. In reaction to the dominance of universalism in the 1970s and '80s, there have recently been a number of reappraisals of the relation between language and cognition, and the field of cognitive anthropology is flourishing in several new directions in both America and Europe. This is partly due to a renewal and re-evaluation of approaches to the question of linguistic relativity associated with Whorf, and partly to the inspiration of modern developments in cognitive science. This review briefly sketches the history of cognitive anthropology and surveys current research on both sides of the Atlantic. The focus is on assessing current directions, considering in particular, by way of illustration, recent work in cultural models and on spatial language and cognition. The review concludes with an assessment of how cognitive anthropology could contribute directly both to the broader project of cognitive science and to the anthropological study of how cultural ideas and practices relate to structures and processes of human cognition.
Publication typeBook chapter