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Language, Culture and Thought, 7.5 c

Course code:5LN245, Report code:07748, 50%, DAG, NML
week: 14 - 23 Semester: Spring 2020 (2020-03-30 - 2020-06-07)

This course is part of a joint section.

Course registration

Registration for this course is done via Student Portal.

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Registration is open: 2020-03-01 - 2020-04-01

Information for admitted students

The registration is open between March 1 and April 1.

Information for reserves

Students who have applied late will be automatically placed on queue. You will be contacted by the department by email (from info@lingfil.uu.se) if you can be offered a place on the course. The email will be sent to the address given at the time of application. Please ensure that email address is valid.

Information for students admitted with conditions

Students who are conditionally admitted cannot web register. You need to show proof that you are eligible to the course before you can be registered. Please contact the responsible teacher (see contact information in the teacher list to the left).

Contact information

If you have any questions about registration, please contact:
Email: info@lingfil.uu.se

Information about student accounts

To take this course you must have a student account. As an admitted you can activate your student account via www.uu.se/konto.

Course start: 2020-04-01

Collaboration information


Spring 2020

Teacher: Robert Borges

Meeting time: 14:15 – 16:00

Meeting "place": Zoom – https://uu-se.zoom.us/j/195575564  :   Meeting ID: 195 575 564

Outline and Assessment

This course will be run as a reading course. For each class you are expected to read and be prepared to discuss two articles, which will be made available on Studentportalen in the Readings folder.

The course will be assessed on the basis of a take-home exam (50%), a short written exercise (25%), and weekly quizzes (25%). Your grade for the quizzes will be based on the best 5 out of 7 scores. The point of the quizzes is to make sure you have done the required reading, and if you do the reading you will find the quizzes very easy. Students from other years have also commented that doing the quizzes over the course has meant that they didn't need much preparation for the exam.


1. Introduction (week 14)

Pullum, Geoffrey K. 1989. “The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax.” Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 275–81.

2. Thinking before language: thinking for speaking (week 15)

Slobin, Dan I. 2003. “Language and Thought Online: Cognitive Consequences of Linguistic Relativity.” in Language in Mind: Advances in the Study of Language and Thought (26 pages)

Wolff, Phillip, and Kevin J. Holmes. 2011. “Linguistic Relativity.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science 2 (3): 253–65. (9 pages)

3. Thinking with language: language as meddler (week 16)
  • Motion

Papafragou, Anna, Justin Hulbert, and John Trueswell. 2008. “Does Language Guide Event Perception? Evidence from Eye Movements.” Cognition 108 (1): 155–84. (26 pages)

  • Colour

Winawer, Jonathan, Nathan Witthoft, Michael C. Frank, Lisa Wu, Alex R. Wade, and Lera Boroditsky. 2007. “Russian Blues Reveal Effects of Language on Color Discrimination.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (19): 7780–85. (6 pages)

4. Thinking with language: language as augmenter (week 17)
  • Number

Dehaene, S., E. Spelke, P. Pinel, R. Stanescu, and S. Tsivkin. 1999. “Sources of Mathematical Thinking: Behavioral and Brain-Imaging Evidence.” Science 284 (5416): 970–74. (6 pages)

  • Category learning

Lupyan, Gary, David H. Rakison, and James L. McClelland. 2007. “Language Is Not Just for Talking Redundant Labels Facilitate Learning of Novel Categories.” Psychological Science 18 (12): 1077–83. (8 pages)

  • Bilingual categorisation

Pavlenko, A., and B. C Malt. 2010. “Kitchen Russian: Cross-Linguistic Differences and First-Language Object Naming by Russian–English Bilinguals.” Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1–27. (22 pages)

5. Ethnotaxonomy (week 18)
  • Folk biological categories

Berlin, B., D. E Breedlove, and P. H Raven. 1973. “General Principles of Classification and Nomenclature in Folk Biology.” American Anthropologist 75 (1): 214–42. (28 pages)

Atran, Scott. 1998. “Folk Biology and the Anthropology of Science: Cognitive Universals and Cultural Particulars.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (04): 547–69.

  • Object naming: Universality and specificity

Malt, Barbara C., Steven A. Sloman, and Silvia P. Gennari. 2003. “Universality and Language Specificity in Object Naming.” Journal of Memory and Language 49 (1): 20–42. (23 pages)

6. Thinking after language: language as spotlight (week 19)
  • Spatial frames of reference

Majid, Asifa, Melissa Bowerman, Sotaro Kita, Daniel BM Haun, and Stephen C. Levinson. 2004. “Can Language Restructure Cognition? The Case for Space.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8 (3): 108–14. (6 pages)

  • Spatial relations

Bowerman, Melissa, and Soonja Choi. 2001. “Shaping Meanings for Language: Universal and Language-Specific in the Acquisition of Semantic Categories.” In Language Acquisition and Conceptual Development, 475–511. Cambridge University Press. (30 pages)

7. The experiential basis of abstract thought (week 20)
  • Spatial metaphor and time

Boroditsky, Lera, Orly Fuhrman, and Kelly McCormick. 2011. “Do English and Mandarin Speakers Think about Time Differently?” Cognition 118 (1): 123–29. (7 pages)

Casasanto, Daniel, and Lera Boroditsky. 2008. “Time in the Mind: Using Space to Think about Time.” Cognition 106 (2): 579–93. (13 pages)

Ramscar, Michael, Teenie Matlock, Lera Boroditsky, K. Mix, L. Smith, and M. Gasser. 2009. “Time, Motion, and Meaning: The Experiential Basis of Abstract Thought.” The Spatial Foundations of Language and Cognition, 67–82. (16 pages)

8. Language and olfaction (week 21)

Croijmans, Ilja, and Asifa Majid. 2016. “Not All Flavor Expertise Is Equal: The Language of Wine and Coffee Experts.” Edited by Sidney Arthur Simon. PLOS ONE 11 (6): e0155845. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0155845.

Majid, Asifa, and Niclas Burenhult. 2014. “Odors Are Expressible in Language, as Long as You Speak the Right Language.” Cognition 130 (2): 266–70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2013.11.004.

9. Social structure and social interaction (week 22)
  • Kinship

Enfield, Nick J. 2005. “The Body as a Cognitive Artifact in Kinship Representations.” Current Anthropology 46 (1): 51–81. (29 pages)

Kemp, Charles, and Terry Regier. 2012. “Kinship Categories Across Languages Reflect General Communicative Principles.” Science 336 (6084): 1049–54. doi:10.1126/science.1218811. (6 pages)

**Extra** William Foley Kinship chapter

  • Politeness: some universals in language usage

Brown, Penelope. 2015. “Politeness and Language.” In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 326–30. Elsevier.

10. The cultural practice of literacy and its influence on language and thought (week 23)

Dobel, Christian, Stefanie Enriquez-Geppert, Pienie Zwitserlood, and Jens Bölte. 2014. “Literacy Shapes Thought: The Case of Event Representation in Different Cultures.” Frontiers in Psychology 5: 290. (5 pages)

Traugott, Elizabeth Closs. 1987. “Literacy and Language Change: The Special Case of Speech Act Verbs.” Interchange 18 (1-2): 32–47. (15 pages)

... and to wrap up the course, a classic paper:

Whorf, Benjamin Lee. 1944. “The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language.” ETC: A Review of General Semantics, 197–215.

Learning Objectives

On successful completion of this course (i.e. a passing grade) the student should at least be able to:

1. Explain common and distinctive features of the world's languages with a focus on the relationship between language, culture and thought;

2. Highlight the close relationship between language, culture and thought from different perspectives, such as language structure, conversation patterns, language development, translation and literature;

3. Explain the main theories about the relationship between language and thought and language and culture;

4. Discuss the relationship between language and identity using relevant linguistic terms and illustrate the argument with your own examples;

5. Describe the differences between unwritten and written language and culture;

6. Highlight using concrete examples relationships between some metaphors and their culture-specific features;

7. Apply theoretical knowledge in the analysis of the given linguistic material;

8. Present your analyses in a scientific way.

We will have a particular focus on language structure and development, rather than conversation, translation or literature.

  • You should show familiarity with modern empirical approaches to investigating the relationship between language and cognition;
  • You should be able to describe and critically analyse psycholinguistic experiments testing hypotheses linking language, culture and thought;
  • You should be able to explain different forms of the linguistic relativity hypothesis, and describe the empirical evidence for and against;
  • You will need to analyse and critically review articles and chapters about the relationship between language, culture and thought.