Anna M. Borghi

Linguistic Relativity and Abstract Words

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Keywords: Abstract Words; Concrete Words; Linguistic Relativity; Whorf; Language and Thought; Words as Tools.

Abstract words (“truthµ) differ from concrete ones (“tableµ) because linguistic experience is more crucial for their acquisition and representation. We previously proposed that the linguistic input is pivotal to learn abstract concepts, because their members are quite heterogeneous. Thus, while processing abstract concepts we would activate language, re-enacting acquisition and/or using inner speech. Here I propose that, because abstract words evoke linguistic experience to a larger extent than concrete ones, they are more affected by linguistic relativity and by the differences between spoken languages. To substantiate this proposal, recent studies are reviewed, showing that the weaker the environmental constraints and the more abstract the words are, the more their meaning differs across languages.

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