Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary

Lexical universals of kinship and social cognition

Anna Wierzbickaa1

a1 School of Language Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200 Australia. anna.wierzbicka@anu.edu.au www.une.edu.au/bcss/linguistics/nsm/

Abstract

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.

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