The Psychological Foundations of Culture

By Mark Schaller; Christian S. Crandall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
4

Language, Cognition, and Reality:
Constructing Shared Meanings
Through Communication
Ivy Y.-M. Lau
Sau-lai Lee
Chi-yue Chiu

University of Hong Kong
The relation of language and thought has occupied the center stage in many theoretical discussions on the psychological foundation of culture. One of the most controversial views is embodied in the Whorfian hypothesis, which holds that the grammatical structures of markedly different languages cause their speakers to develop markedly different cultural representations of the reality. Reviews of the Whorfian hypothesis (e.g., Brown, 1976; Glucksberg, 1988; Pinker, 1994; Rosch, 1987) find little support for linguistic determinism. However, recent advances in cognitive psychology and cultural studies reveal that the use of language in human interaction may play an important role in the evolution and maintenance of cultural representations. In this chapter, we propose a model to describe the relationships between culture, language, communication, and shared cognitions. Fig. 4.1 illustrates the cyclical relation among the four variables in the model. It assumes that:
Language is a carrier of cultural meanings.
Cultural meanings are evoked when language is used in interpersonal communication.
The use of language in communication will increase the accessibility of existing shared representations in the culture. In addition, through communication, private, idiosyncratic representations will be transformed

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