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ERIC Number: EJ834004
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Jan
Pages: 55
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 76
ISSN: ISSN-1074-9039
Studying Cognition in Flux: A Historical Treatment of "Fu" in the Shifting Structure of Oksapmin Mathematics
Saxe, Geoffrey B.; Esmonde, Indigo
Mind, Culture, and Activity, v12 n3-4 p171-225 Jan 2005
This article extends a framework for the study of culture-cognition relations to problems of historical research and diachronic analysis. As an illustrative case, we focus on mathematics in Oksapmin communities located in a remote highland area in central New Guinea. The Oksapmin, like their neighboring Mountain-Ok groups to the West, traditionally use a 27-body-part counting system for number, and there is no evidence that Oksapmin used arithmetic in prehistory. We present a coordinated analysis of shifts in functions of a word form based on field studies completed in 1978, 1980, and 2001. These shifts are related to changing collective practices of economic exchange in which arithmetical activities are increasingly important. The word form "fu" has changed from its use as an intensive quantifier that means "a complete group of plenty" to one that means double a numerical value. We show how the analytic framework affords a multilevel inquiry into genetic processes of change in the Oksapmin case and argue that the approach is useful for understanding the interplay between cultural and developmental processes in cognition more generally. (Contains 22 footnotes, 2 tables, and 27 figures.)
Routledge. Available from: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 325 Chestnut Street Suite 800, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 800-354-1420; Fax: 215-625-2940; Web site:
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Journal Articles
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A