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ERIC Number: EJ876034
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-May
Pages: 10
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0277
Are Cantonese-Speakers Really Descriptivists? Revisiting Cross-Cultural Semantics
Lam, Barry
Cognition, v115 n2 p320-329 May 2010
In an article in "Cognition" [Machery, E., Mallon, R., Nichols, S., & Stich, S. (2004). "Semantics cross-cultural style." "Cognition, 92", B1-B12] present data which purports to show that East Asian Cantonese-speakers tend to have descriptivist intuitions about the referents of proper names, while Western 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. 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 like philosophical semantics. In the following study, three new vignettes in English were given to Western native English-speakers, and Cantonese translations were given to native Cantonese-speaking immigrants from a Cantonese community in Southern California. For all three vignettes, questions were given to elicit intuitions about the referent of a proper name and the truth-value of an uttered sentence containing a proper name. The results from this study reveal that East Asian Cantonese-speakers do not differ from Western English-speakers in ways that support Machery et al.'s conclusions. This new data concerning the intuitions of Cantonese-speakers raises questions about whether cross-cultural variation in answers to questions on certain vignettes reveal genuine differences in intuitions, or whether such differences stem from non-intuitional differences, such as differences in linguistic competence. (Contains 3 tables.)
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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