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ERIC Number: EJ810129
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Sep
Pages: 6
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0277
Number as a Cognitive Technology: Evidence from Piraha Language and Cognition
Frank, Michael C.; Everett, Daniel L.; Fedorenko, Evelina; Gibson, Edward
Cognition, v108 n3 p819-824 Sep 2008
Does speaking a language without number words change the way speakers of that language perceive exact quantities? The Piraha are an Amazonian tribe who have been previously studied for their limited numerical system [Gordon, P. (2004). Numerical cognition without words: Evidence from Amazonia. "Science 306", 496-499]. We show that the Piraha have no linguistic method whatsoever for expressing exact quantity, not even "one." Despite this lack, when retested on the matching tasks used by Gordon, Piraha speakers were able to perform exact matches with large numbers of objects perfectly but, as previously reported, they were inaccurate on matching tasks involving memory. These results suggest that language for exact number is a cultural invention rather than a linguistic universal, and that number words do not change our underlying representations of number but instead are a cognitive technology for keeping track of the cardinality of large sets across time, space, and changes in modality. (Contains 2 figures.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A