Cognition 66 (3):215-248 (1998)

Authors
Susan Gelman
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Abstract
Generic noun phrases (e.g. 'bats live in caves') provide a window onto human concepts. They refer to categories as 'kinds rather than as sets of individuals. Although kind concepts are often assumed to be universal, generic expression varies considerably across languages. For example, marking of generics is less obligatory and overt in Mandarin than in English. How do universal conceptual biases interact with language-specific differences in how generics are conveyed? In three studies, we examined adults' generics in English and Mandarin Chinese. The data include child-directed speech from caregivers interacting with their 19-23-month-old children. Examples of generics include: 'baby birds eat worms' (English) and da4 lao3shu3 yao3 bu4 yao3 ren2 ('do big rats bite people or not?') (Mandarin). Generic noun phrases were reliably identified in both languages, although they occurred more than twice as frequently in English as in Mandarin. In both languages, generic usage was domain-specific, with generic noun phrases used most frequently to refer to animals. This domain effect was specific to generics, as non-generic noun phrases were used most frequently for artifacts in both languages. In sum, we argue for universal properties of 'kind' concepts that are expressed with linguistically different constructions. However, the frequency of expression may be influenced by the manner in which generics are expressed in the language.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/s0010-0277(98)00021-3
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 50,308
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Perceptual Symbol Systems.Lawrence W. Barsalou - 1999 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (4):577-660.
Simple Generics.David Liebesman - 2011 - Noûs 45 (3):409-442.
Perceptions of Perceptual Symbols.Lawrence W. Barsalou - 1999 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (4):637-660.

View all 14 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Generics and Atemporal When.Greg N. Carlson - 1979 - Linguistics and Philosophy 3 (1):49 - 98.
Noun Phrases, Quantifiers, and Generic Names.E. J. Lowe - 1991 - Philosophical Quarterly 41 (164):287-300.
Towards a Common Semantics for English Count and Mass Nouns.Brendan S. Gillon - 1992 - Linguistics and Philosophy 15 (6):597 - 639.
On the Readings of Plural Noun Phrases.Peter Lasersohn - 1989 - Linguistic Inquiry 20 (1):130-134.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2013-11-21

Total views
30 ( #321,604 of 2,325,998 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #293,124 of 2,325,998 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes