Are cantonese speakers really descriptivists? Revisiting cross-cultural semantics

Cognition 115 (2):320–32 (2010)
In an article in Cognition, Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich [Machery et al., 2004] present data which purports to show that “East Asian” native Cantonese speakers tend to have descriptivist intuitions about the referents of proper names, while “Western” native English speakers tend to have causal-historical intuitions about proper names. Machery et al take this finding to support the view that some intuitions, the universality of which they claim is central to philosophical theories, vary according to cultural background. Machery et al hypothesize that the differences in intuitions about reference stem from general psychological differences between Eastern and Western subjects. Machery et al conclude from their findings that the philosophical methodology of consulting intuitions about hypothetical cases is flawed vis ` a vis the goal of determining truths about some philosophical domains. To quote Machery et al, “our data indicate that philosophers must radically revise their methodology” because “the intuitions philosophers pronounce from their armchairs are likely to be a product of their own culture and their academic training” ( [Machery et al., 2004] pp.B9). “The evidence suggests that it is wrong for philosophers to assume a priori the universality of their own semantic intuitions” ( [Machery et al., 2004] pp. B8). In the following study, I present data incompatible with Machery et al’s results. Native Cantonese-speaking immigrants from a Cantonese diaspora 1 in Southern California do not have descriptivist intuitions about the referents of proper names when presented with a Cantonese story and Cantonese questions about reference and truth-value. This data raises questions about the quality of Machery et al’s study and the conclusions they draw from it.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2009.12.018
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 29,478
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Philosophical Expertise and Scientific Expertise.Jennifer Nado - 2015 - Philosophical Psychology 28 (7):1026-1044.
Theories of Reference and Experimental Philosophy.James Genone - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (2):152-163.
Interpreting Intuition: Experimental Philosophy of Language.Jeffrey Maynes - 2015 - Philosophical Psychology 28 (2):260-278.
Intuitions, Disagreement and Referential Pluralism.James Andow - 2014 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (2):223-239.

View all 8 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles
If Folk Intuitions Vary, Then What?Edouard Machery, Ron Mallon, Shaun Nichols & Stephen P. Stich - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 86 (3):618-635.
Against Arguments From Reference.Ron Mallon, Edouard Machery, Shaun Nichols & Stephen Stich - 2009 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (2):332 - 356.
Experimental Semantics.Michael Devitt - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (2):418 - 435.
Added to PP index

Total downloads
149 ( #32,300 of 2,180,556 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #302,815 of 2,180,556 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads
My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums