Words and Concepts

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November 14, 2018
16

Words and Concepts

Undergraduate Lecture

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November 14, 2018
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  1. Words and concepts II Language and Thought 8 July 2014

    Molly Lewis
  2. Words and concepts Smallest unit of meaningful language: words The

    meaning of words: concepts What are concepts?
  3. CAKE Concept: A mental representation that allows for grouping things

    in the world together as similar
  4. Conceptual space is continuous Color ….and there are an infinite

    number of ways to cut it up. “cake” “cupcake” “pie” Desserts “pifo” “dax”
  5. Different languages organize this space in different ways (Regier, Kay,

    & Khetarpal, 2006)
  6. The Puzzle 1. Words are related to concepts 2. Conceptual

    space is continuous 3. There are an infinite number of ways to organize 4. Different language organize it in different ways 5. …Does this matter?
  7. Does it matter? (How are words related to concepts?) Some

    hypotheses: 1. Words do not affect concepts in any way. 2. Words make it easier to communicate about a concept. 3. Words make it easier to think about a concept (e.g. faster to identify category member). 4. Words guide categorization when using language. 5. Words guide categorization even when not using language. 6. Words guide how you perceive the world. 7. If you don’t have a word for a concept, it’s impossible to think about that concept
  8. The outline for today The relationship between words and concepts

    in different domains Domain #1: Color [Last week] Domain #2: Entities Domain #3: Events Domain #4: Number
  9. Domain #2: Entities Imai & Gentner (1997)

  10. Entities Animate Discrete Inanimate Discrete Inanimate Non-discrete How does English

    break up this space of meaning? “A boy” “A hammer” x “A sand” “Two boys” “Two hammers” x “two sands” “two cups of sands”
  11. How does language shape understanding of entities? • Hypothesis #1:

    Independent of language (universal) • Hypothesis #2: Shapes understanding
  12. The origins of the structure of entity conceptual space Tested

    how speakers of both languages organized the conceptual space – If organize the same… • structure of entity conceptual space not the result of language (universal) – If organize differently… • structure of entity conceptual space shaped by the structure of language (Imai & Gentner, 1997)
  13. Task (Imai & Gentner, 1997) “Look at this dax. Point

    to the tray that also has the dax on it.”
  14. Design (Imai & Gentner, 1997) 2 year olds, 2.5 year-olds,

    4 year-olds, and adults English and Japanese speakers
  15. Predictions? LANGUAGE TASK H1: Independent of language H2: Shaped by

    language
  16. Predictions Hypothesis 1: Independent of language – Young children who

    are first learning language should show English-pattern, regardless of language Hypothesis 2: Due to language – Speakers of different languages should differ • English: objects by shape and substances by substance • Japanese: Random between shape and substance
  17. Results

  18. Discussion • Which hypothesis supported? • On the one hand,

    evidence for universal differentiations between substances and objects • On the other hand, linguistic differences
  19. Imai and Gentner • “Children begin learning word meanings building

    on their pre-linguistic ontological knowledge about individuation.” • “Language learning leads children to pay attention to those aspects of the world that are habitually used in their own language, and this influence begins very early.” • “Finally, children’s sensitivity to linguistically- relevant aspects of the world may come to extend beyond the context of language use.”
  20. Domain #3: Events Gennari, Sloman, Malt, & Fitch (2002)

  21. ENGLISH: “The girl is running out of the house” [manner]

    SPANISH: “The girl is leaving the house quickly” [path] Describe this picture.
  22. English: Manner Language The girl ran (out of the house).

    MANNER PATH Spanish: Path Language Salió (corriendo). PATH MANNER 3SG.leave (running)
  23. Events manner path How does language shape understanding of events?

    • Hypothesis #1: Independent of language (universal) • Hypothesis #2: shaped by language
  24. Task TARGET Path Alternate Manner Alternate Either describe or just

    watch
  25. Results

  26. Discussion • How interpret this? • Spanish speakers selected the

    same-path alternate because this was the dimension more often attended to during naming • Conscious or unconscious?
  27. Domain #4: Number Frank, Everett, Fedorenko, & Gibson (2008)

  28. Animals, babies and adults able to discriminate large quantities approximately

  29. Number Humans have EXACT representation of number, too. And, (unlike

    animals), we also have number words. “one” “two” “three”, etc….
  30. “one” “two” “three”, etc…. How does language shape understanding of

    number? • Hypothesis #1: Independent of language (universal) • Hypothesis #2: Due to language How would you test this?
  31. Piraha people of Brazil: No words for exact number! a

    monolingual hunter–gatherer tribe living in the Amazon rainforest
  32. Piraha people of Brazil: No words for exact number!

  33. Tasks One-to-one “Nuts in a can”

  34. Results

  35. Discussion • Which hypothesis supported? • On the one hand,

    conceptual knowledge of exact number • On the other hand, difficulty with memory tasks
  36. Frank et al. • “This evidence argues against the strong

    Whorfian claim that language for number creates the concept of exact quantity (and correspondingly, that without language for number, any task requiring an exact match would be impossible).” • “Instead, the case of Piraha suggests that languages that can express large, exact cardinalities have a more modest effect on the cognition of their speakers: They allow the speakers to remember and compare information about cardinalities accurately across space, time, and changes in modality.”
  37. The Puzzle 1. Words are related to concepts 2. Conceptual

    space is continuous 3. There are an infinite number of ways to organize 4. Different language organize it in different ways 5. …Does this matter?
  38. Does it matter? Four domains: Domain #1: Color [Last week]

    Domain #2: Entities Domain #3: Events Domain #4: Number
  39. How are words and concepts related? Some hypotheses: 1. Words

    do not affect concepts in any way. 2. Words make it easier to communicate about a concept. 3. Words make it easier to think about a concept (e.g. faster to identify category member). 4. Words guide categorization when using language. 5. Words guide categorization even when not using language. 6. Words guide how you perceive the world. 7. If you don’t have a word for a concept, it’s impossible to think about that concept Which do you think is most right in these domains?