From patterns in language to patterns in thought: Relativity realized across the Americas

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2 Scopus citations


Among the many results Boas envisioned for the documentation of American indigenous languages was a clearer delineation of some fundamental facets of human psychology. This paper examines the subsequent realization of that particular vision, outlining some of the ways in which research with speakers of American languages has helped illuminate human cognition. The focus is on key fndings that o?er support for linguistic relativity, the in?uence of linguistic disparities on thought evident in non-linguistic behavior. These fndings relate to spatial, temporal, and numerical cognition. The relevant data surveyed o?er compelling evidence that some cross-linguistic di?erences impact cognitive habits. A pivotal point is underscored throughout the paper: Despite the crossfeld nature of the fndings on this topic, those fndings are ultimately contingent on the research of linguistic feldworkers who have meticulously described typologically distinct languages. Through their research, the Boasian vision for psychological insights via the description of American languages has been realized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-201
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of American Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017


  • Cognition
  • Linguistic relativity
  • Number
  • Space
  • Time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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