Quantity Recognition Among Speakers of an Anumeric Language

Cognitive Science 36 (1):130-141 (2012)
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Recent research has suggested that the Pirahã, an Amazonian tribe with a number-less language, are able to match quantities > 3 if the matching task does not require recall or spatial transposition. This finding contravenes previous work among the Pirahã. In this study, we re-tested the Pirahãs’ performance in the crucial one-to-one matching task utilized in the two previous studies on their numerical cognition, as well as in control tasks requiring recall and mental transposition. We also conducted a novel quantity recognition task. Speakers were unable to consistently match quantities > 3, even when no recall or transposition was involved. We provide a plausible motivation for the disparate results previously obtained among the Pirahã. Our findings are consistent with the suggestion that the exact recognition of quantities > 3 requires number terminology



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