Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Lexical universals of kinship and social cognition

Anna Wierzbickaa1

School of Language Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200 Australia.


Jones recognizes the existence of “primitives of conceptual structures,” out of which “local representations of kinship are constructed.” NSM semantics has identified these primitives through a cross-linguistic search for lexical universals (“NSM” stands for Natural Semantic Metalanguage and also for the corresponding linguistic theory). These empirical universals provide, I argue, a better bridge between cognitive anthropology and evolutionary psychology than the abstract constructs of OT, with dubious claim to conceptual reality.