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. [email protected]


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.