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Title: Universals and Variation in the Lexicon of Mental State Concepts
Contributor(s): Goddard, Cliff  (author)
Publication Date: 2010
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Abstract: In a global perspective, the language of mental state concepts displays a great deal of variation - much greater than imagined by most cognitive scientists. Almost all the words in the English lexicon of emotion and cognition are language and culture specific, i.e., they do not have exact meaning equivalents in many, perhaps most, other languages. This includes words for emotional and attitudinal states, such as sad, angry surprised, anxiety, and grief, words for epistemic states and cognitive processes, such as believe, doubt, and remember, and words for ethnopsychological constructs, such as mind, heart, psyche, and memory (Russell, 1991; Wierzbicka, 1999; Harkins & Wierzbicka, 2001; Palmer, Goddard, & Lee, 2003; Shweder, 2004; Amberber, 2007; Schalley & Khlentzos, 2007). Most cognitive scientists underestimate not only the scale of semantic variation across languages, but also the theoretical and methodological challenges it poses. In theorizing and discussing emotional states, they tend to take English for granted, effectively absolutizing the English lexicon of emotion and cognition (for example, assuming that words such as sadness, anger, and surprise represent natural psychological categories), while denying the same privilege to the lexical categories of other languages. At the methodological level, many researchers seem to regard the "problem of translation" as a mere nuisance that can easily be overcome by tagging indigenous concepts with English glosses. In the process, many cross-cultural studies are seriously flawed by inaccurate translations and concomitant "terminological ethnocentrism."
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Words and the Mind: How words capture human experience, p. 72-92
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Place of Publication: New York, United States of America
ISBN: 9780195311129
Field of Research (FOR): 200408 Linguistic Structures (incl Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics)
170299 Cognitive Science not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Outcome Codes: 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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