Individuals recapitulate the proposed evolutionary development of spatial lexicons


When English speakers successively pile-sort colors, their sorting recapitulates an independently proposed hierarchy of color category evolution during language change (Boster, 1986). Here we extend that finding to the semantic domain of spatial relations. Levinson et al. (2003) have proposed a hierarchy of spatial category evolution, and we show that English speakers successively pile-sort spatial scenes in a manner that recapitulates that proposed evolutionary hierarchy. Thus, in the spatial domain, as in color, proposed universal patterns of language change based on cross-language observations appear to reflect general cognitive forces that are available in the minds of speakers of a single language.

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