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Trends Cogn Sci. 2004 Mar;8(3):108-14.

Can language restructure cognition? The case for space.

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Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Postbus 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


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 cross-culturally, 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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