Do all languages share the same conceptual structure?

Cognitive Semantics 8 (2):159-180 (2022)
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In this work, we consider the views of three exponents of major areas of linguistics – Levelt (psycholinguistics), Jackendoff (theoretical linguistics), and Gil (field linguistics) – regarding the issue of the universality or not of the conceptual structure of languages. In Levelt’s view, during language production, the conceptual structure of the preverbal message is language-specific. In Jackendoff’s theoretical approach to language – his parallel architecture –, there is a universal conceptual structure shared by all languages, in contradiction to Levelt’s view. In Gil’s work on Riau Indonesian, he proposes a conceptual structure that is quite different from that of English, adopted by Jackendoff as universal. We find no reason to disagree with Gil’s view. In this way, we take Gil’s work as vindicating Levelt’s view that during language production preverbal messages are encoded with different conceptual structures for different languages.

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Mario Bacelar Valente
Pablo de Olavide University


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