LINGUIST List 24.2864

Mon Jul 15 2013

Review: Cognitive Science; Semantics; Sociolinguistics: Aikhenvald & Storch (2013)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 10-May-2013
From: Thiago Chacon <>
Subject: Perception and Cognition in Language and Culture
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Alexandra Y AikhenvaldEDITOR: Anne StorchTITLE: Perception and Cognition in Language and CultureSERIES TITLE: Brill's Studies in Language, Cognition and CulturePUBLISHER: BrillYEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Thiago Costa Chacon, University of California, Santa Barbara

SUMMARYThis volume focuses on descriptive and functional-typological issues of howlanguages code perception and cognition in the lexicon, grammar and discourse.It is the outcome of an international interdisciplinary workshop, “Migrationof Ideas”, held at University of Cologne in 2010. The book has a substantialintroduction by the editors plus nine chapters contributing original data andanalysis from languages in three distinct regions of the world: West Papua andNew Guinea, South America, and Africa, the latter represented by six chapters.A diverse set of contributions treat two main theoretical questions:

(1) lexicalization patterns of perception verbs, their grammatical nuances,and the semantic complexity of different domains of perception and cognition(cf. Viberg 1983, Sweetser 1990, Evans and Wilkins 2000);

(2) evidentiality, mirativity, and modality (cf. Chafe and Nichols 1986,DeLancey 1997, 2001, 2012, Aikhenvald 2004, 2012).

Seven chapters address primarily (1), while (2) is the main concern ofChapters 3 and 4, and to a lesser extent Chapter 2. Cognition is discussedwith regards to verbs denoting cognitive processes and emotions, but moreoften it comes up as a secondary issue arising from its relationship toperception verbs, mirativity and evidentiality. Culture is discussed in thepoints of correlation between social norms, worldview, and pragmaticprinciples concerning the linguistics of perception and cognition.

I assess each chapter individually, followed by an overall evaluation.

Chapter 1: Linguistic expression of perception and cognition: a typologicalglimpse, 
Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald and Anne Storch.

This forty-page introduction surveys different frameworks for investigatingperception in languages and its correlation with cognition and culture, with arich, diverse discussion of different types of data. Section 1 anticipates keyissues that are treated in the book and sets the relativistic spirit andtypological orientation of the book, illustrated by a citation from Franz Boas(1938: 132) that “languages differ not in what one can say but rather in whatkind of information must be stated”.

Section 2 discusses how evidentiality, mirativity and other grammatical meansfor coding information source, types of information and types of knowledge.The relevance of perception to evidentiality is highlighted by systems inwhich a “visual evidential” contrasts with a “non-visual evidential” and thecase of evidentials dedicated exclusively to one particular modality ofperception other than vision (p. 7), despite the fact that in most languagesit is actually firsthand vs. non-firsthand information source that forms thebasic semantic opposition. Subsection 2.2 focuses on the coding of informationsource through other grammatical means, mainly demonstratives. Cognition comesinto discussions of mirativity (defined as a way to express a type ofinformation that is surprising or new to the speaker or hearer’s unpreparedmind), information source, and as a by-product of epistemic extensions of someevidentials (e.g. degrees of certainty), a fact that recalls earlier insightsinto evidentiality as an ''attitude toward knowledge'' (Chafe 1986).

Section 3 deals with the lexical expression of perception and cognition. Itoffers informative cross-linguistic discussions about verbs referring to thefive traditional sensory-perception modalities: seeing, hearing, touching,smelling and tasting. An excellent summary of the semantic complexity andpolysemy of verbs of perception and cognition is presented along with anoverview of how context and grammar can frame the function of these verbs. Thesection also discusses how languages code perception and cognition by meansother than verbs, such as by body part terms, ideophones and discoursepractices, which serve as link between the linguistic perspective ofperception and cognition and culture. Culture is centrally discussed inSection 4, which explores how cultural norms from different societies treatthe different senses in everyday social interactions, knowledge systems, andcosmological beliefs, highlighting the importance of seeing/eye versushearing/ear and perceiving/body in different cultures and languages.

The heart of the chapter, though, lies in the discussion of the maintypological studies of perception verbs: Viberg (1983), Sweetser (1990), andEvans and Wilkins (2000). Following the seminal work of Evans and Wilkins(2000), the authors show several cases that contradict Sweetser’s claim that“vision -- rather than other senses -- is the only source of semanticextensions from perception to cognition” (p. 21).

With regard to Viberg’s typological investigation, two main points ofcriticism are highlighted: (1) Viberg’s three typological parameters for thetypology of perception verbs (ACTIVITY-CONTROLLED, EXPERIENCE-UNCONTROLLED andCOPULATIVE/STATE) are criticized as being often “a corollary of theconstruction in which one single lexeme is used” (p. 20). Despite the factthat the authors’ claims are empirically well grounded, they do not, in fact,invalidate Viberg’s parameters, which can capture important cross-linguisticlexical distinctions (e.g., ‘listen to’ [activity-controlled] vs. ‘hear’[experience-uncontrolled]) and grammatical implications (e.g., ‘he is lookingat/*seeing the birds’ [‘look at’ = activity; ‘see’ = experience]). (2)Viberg’s claim of the unidirectionality of intrafield extensions yielded bythe hierarchy SEE > HEAR > TOUCH > SMELL/TASTE is regarded as being weakenedby “a dubious assumption of intrafield polysemies” (p. 20) and falsified bycounterexamples. Instead of endorsing traditional concepts such as “polysemy”and the opposition between “intrafield” (i.e. across different perceptiondomains) versus “transfield” (from perception to cognition) semanticextensions, the authors suggest as an alternative the intentionally vagueterms of “meaning complex” and “semantic systems”. This seems to work well forcases of generic verbs such as ‘to perceive’, which cover multiple perceptionand cognitive domains, but it may be less useful when diachronic or synchronicdata can elucidate a basic or prototypical meaning, and corresponding paths ofsemantic extensions. Reported case as counterexamples to Viberg’s “intrafield”semantic extensions are Maslova (2004) and Chapter 7 of this volume.

In the conclusion, the rich and diverse lexical system of sensory-perceptionexpression is contrasted with the more limited closed grammatical system ofevidentiality, suggesting few common threads between the two. Observationsabout the cultural motivations underlying the ranking of vision or hearing asculturally more important are accompanied by complex generalizations on thecorrelation between language and culture. The concluding words point out that“no ‘hierarchy’ of senses is universal” (p. 37), i.e., that each of the fivesenses can be primary and preferential according to different linguistic andpragmatic circumstances.

Chapter 2. Knowing, smelling and telling tales in Luwo,
Anne Storch
This chapter provides an overview of different lexical, grammatical anddiscourse phenomena related to perception and cognition in Luwo, SouthernSudan. It describes a small evidential system that contrasts firsthand andnon-firsthand information source. The semantic overtone of non-firsthandevidential is interpreted as a type of inference. Perception is presented as adiverse lexical phenomenon which, in addition to the verbs expressing the fivesensory means of perception, also covers an array of smell terms analyzed asan independent word class and a list of verbs related to fine-grained nuancesin the perception of taste. Moving to cognition, Luwo has a dedicated ‘know’verb. This verb’s derived stem refers to olfactory perception when it occursin a sort of middle verb construction involving an anticausative derivation.The correlation of ‘know’ with ‘smell’ contradicts the general tendency in thelanguage for cognition to be expressed by other, polysemous verbs with a highdegree of agentivity and telicity based in visual experiences (e.g. ‘see’,‘find out’, ‘detect’, ‘realize’, ‘discover’). This correlation is also unusualtypologically. The chapter closes with an eloquent analysis of ideophones innarrative contexts; in Luwo, ideophones mostly refer to things one can see;they are both an important tool for storytellers and important resources inthe transmission of cultural knowledge.

3. Source of information and unexpected information in !Xun -- evidential,mirative 
and counterexpectation markers,
Christa König
This chapter describes four non-obligatory clitics coding evidentiality,mirativity and counter-expectation in !Xun, a fairly isolating Central Khoisanlanguage. Evidentials contrast firsthand versus non-firsthand information, thelatter including overtones of inference, assumption, modality and evenmirativity. The mirativity marker is used when the speaker expects that whatis being stated will cause surprise to the addressee; it is also used tohighlight the main point within a narrative. The counter-expectation markerhas a function that is ambiguous between mood and a deontic modality; it isstructurally similar to the imperative mood construction and expresses theidea that the situation presented by an utterance should not be taking place.Markers of evidentiality, mirativity and counter-expectation occur in themodality slot of !Xun verbs, where one also finds epistemic and deonticmodals. These facts, along with the optionality of the entire system and theoverlapping semantics and syntax with modality and mood, suggest thatevidentiality, mirativity and counter-expectation bear a very closerelationship to mood and modality in the language. This supports König’sinitial statement that the !Xun system encodes “aspects of information”, abroader and welcomed perspective that allows for a more holistic treatment ofcognition and grammar.

4. A Quechuan mirative?,
Willem F.H. Adelaar
This chapter provides a comprehensive analysis of mirativity in Tarma Quechuaand related languages. Markers coding mirativity are part of the tenseparadigm, though “this is related to grammatical organization, rather than togenuine temporal semantics” (p. 100). Mirativity in Tarma Quechua is similarto the same category in !Xun (Chapter 3) in the sense it codes new orunexpected information for the addressee and not necessarily for the speaker.It can be combined with any aspectual category, as well as with the“certainty” and “reported” evidentials, but never with the “conjectural”evidential since “mirativity refers to facts or events that are not in doubt”(p. 103). Mirativity cannot be combined with negation in Tarma Quechua, justlike aspect morphemes, which do not co-occur with negation. There are complexgrammatical interactions between the category of mirativity and the semanticfocus on the addressee. This leads Adelaar to ask whether the Tarma Quechuamirative should be equated with the miratives described elsewhere in thetypological literature or whether it should be analyzed as a differentcategory. Resemblances between the Quechua and !Xun miratives (Chapter 3)point to a need for refining the definition of mirativitycross-linguistically.

5. Seeing, hearing and thinking in Korowai, a language of West Papua,
Lourensde Vries
This chapter analyzes the linguistics of perception and cognition in Korowai,a non-Austronesian language of West Papua. It focuses on how Korowai speakerscan communicate about events of seeing, hearing, thinking and inner states,and contextualizes perception and cognition within the lexicon, grammar andculture. De Vries highlights the Korowai view of the “opacity of the mind ofothers” (p. 117) and relates this to the behavior of perception verbs, theirextensions into the domain of cognition, and the different lexical andgrammatical ways that speakers can talk about thinking and emotional innerstates. There is one verb for hearing and another for seeing, and both codecontrolled and uncontrolled ‘seeing/looking’ and ‘hearing/listening’. Theyalso code meanings related to the social domain (e.g., ‘watch over’, ‘payattention’) and cognition (e.g., ‘know’, especially in perfective/resultativeaspect), provided the object of the verb is visible or audible. ‘Thinking’(including emotional inner states) as a controlled event takesintestine-related idioms and a verb referring to ‘shoot, plant, insert’. Theverb ‘say’ is also used to refer to controlled thinking in quotativeconstructions, often accompanied by idioms referring to guts, gall andintestines. Uncontrolled thinking is expressed through a copula/inchoativeverb and intestine-related nouns; syntactically, the “thinking person” isdemoted to an experiencer role in non-subject function.

6. Perception and cognition in Manambu, a Papuan language from New Guinea,Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald
Aikhenvald presents a clear and thorough grammatical and semantic analysis ofthe linguistics of perception and cognition in Manambu, an Ndu language of NewGuinea. Two verbs of perception are discussed: ‘seeing’, which also codes‘look, taste, experience, try, read’; and ‘hearing’, which also refers to‘listen, smell, obey, think about, worry, remember’. There is also a morespecialized ‘touch’ verb, and two cognition verbs: ‘understand, know’ and‘think that X, have an opinion’. The locus of cognitive and emotionalactivities or states is the “inside” (i.e. ‘core, liver, bone marrow’, etc.).Cognition and perception verbs are analyzed as a special class of verbs.Sub-meanings within seeing and hearing verbs are analyzed on the basis ofgrammatical frames, such as case markings, imperatives, directional,reduplication and combination with body parts (eye and ear). On the basis ofgrammatical and semantic distinctions, Aikhenvald analyzes ‘sight’ as thebasic meaning of the polysemous seeing verb, but the verb referring to hearingis treated as more complex and no basic meaning can be distinguished betweenperception and cognition, contrary to the rationale of semantic extensions inthe typological literature. Aikhenvald concludes that ‘seeing’ is actually aspecial lexeme, given its semantic uniqueness when compared to hearing andother verbs in that language, which tend to have a generic meaning. Shesuggests that the uniqueness of ‘seeing’ has analogues in Manambu culture,where sight is marked as a source of power and threat.

7. From body to knowledge: perception and cognition in Khwe-||Ani (CentralKhoisan),
Matthias Brenzinger and Anne Maria Fehn
This chapter explores the semantics of perception verbs in three closelyrelated Khoisan languages, Kwe, ||Ani and T’sixa, and further compares themwith other neighboring and related languages. The chapter provides anelaborate connection between language and culture, and an interesting debateabout the typology of perception and cognition. Kwe-||Ani has verbs coveringthe entire set of perception modalities: specific verbs referring to ‘see’ andto ‘hear’ and another verb referring to the other sensorial modalities,‘taste; smell; touch’. This verb is analyzed as a generic verb, with aprinciple meaning “perceive food”, but with extensions into internal andexternal feeling, “covering a mode of perception that is essentially‘holistic’” (p. 162). The intrafield extensions of this verb are analyzed asbeing from ‘taste’ to ‘smell’ and ‘touch’, contradicting Viberg’s (1983)hierarchy, where one would expect the ‘smell’ verb to extend to ‘taste’. Whileall verbs of perception can extend into the cognitive domain, usually throughserial verb constructions with the verb ‘know’, the verb referring to ‘smell;taste; touch’ is seen as having primacy over the other perception verb intransfield extensions. The authors argue that the primacy of ‘smell; taste;touch’ in perception and cognition is strongly related to a holistic culturaland linguistic understanding of “body-perception” and “perception of theworld” (i.e. knowledge and cognition) in Khoeid cultures. This is found inother domains of the language of cognition as well; for example, the verb “toknow” also refers to “forehead”.
8. Perception verbs and their semantics in Dongolawi (Nile Nubian),
AngelikaJakobi and El-Shafie El-Guzuuli
This chapter focuses on the description of the lexical expression ofperception verbs and their extensions into cognitive and social domains inDongolawi, a language spoken in the Nile Valley in Northwen Sudan. Closelyfollowing Viberg’s (1983) typology, the authors illustrate how the fivesensory perception modalities are lexicalized by different verbs as predicatesthat code activity-oriented, experience-oriented and phenomenon-orientedexpressions of perception. Attention is also given to how differentgrammatical frames condition the meaning of perception verbs. While seeing isthe sole perceptual predicate with semantic extension into the cognitivedomain (‘seeing’ can refer to ‘examining, checking, finding out, thinkingabout’), the language includes a more diverse and specialized set of cognitionverbs.

9. Excite your senses -- glances into the field of perception and cognitionin Tima,
Gertrud Schneider-Blum and Gerrit J. Dimmendaal
This chapter discusses the meaning and grammar of perception and cognitionverbs in Tima, an endangered language spoken in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan.The authors explore the different ranges of meanings of perception verbsfollowing Viberg’s (1983) typological parameters. The language has verbsdenoting each of the five modalities of sensory perception. These verbs do notform a special lexical subclass. The authors pay careful attention to thegrammatical differences between each verb and in the grammatical processesinvolved in the semantic extensions of perception verbs, such as the use of ahigh-transitivity marker, ideophones, pluractionality, instrumentalconstructions, antipassive, telicity, tense/aspect and constituent order. Theverb ‘see’ may also refer to ‘watching, looking, taking care of, considering;the verb ‘hear’ may also refer to ‘listening, sounding, obeying’. The languagealso has dedicated lexical items referring to touching, tasting and smelling.Cognition is expressed by independent verbs, specifically ‘think’ andcognitive extensions of the verb ‘find’, such as ‘discovering, remember,understanding, knowing, being acquainted with’.
10. Perception in Lussese (Bantu, J10),
Marilena ThanassoulaThis chapter discusses perception as a holistic cultural and linguisticphenomenon in Lussese, an endangered Bantu language spoken in Uganda.Thanassoula shows that the verb “hear” has a rich polysemy, coding ‘hearing’and ‘feeling/perceiving’, including tastes, odors, emotions and cognition(e.g., ‘understand’). More specifically, olfactory and gustatory perception iscoded by the same set of verbs, which also code uncertainty on future mattersand personal tastes (e.g., ‘like’). The verbs of visual perception are morerestricted in meaning than the verb of auditory perception, but Thanassoulauses evidence from the rich terminology and detailed cultural evaluation ofcolor terms to argue that the visual domain of perception should not berendered as less complex than the auditory domain. In the conclusion, theauthor raises important questions about the methodology of linguisticdescription and typology, such as the validity of semantic hierarchies ofsenses and the assignment of a basic meaning for verbs with holisticsemantics.

EVALUATIONThis book is an important contribution to deeper understanding of thelinguistic expression of sensory perception and its correlation with cognitionand culture. It brings fresh and diverse questions and approaches that in duetime will help refine and expand previous research. The high points for me, asa descriptive linguist, are the following:

(i) A holistic approach to perception and cognition as a multimodal and fluidphenomenon, which allows for an analysis of perception as it is lexicalized indifferent terminological systems (such as ideophones, color terms, terms fordifferent tastes and textures, etc.) and in multiple grammatical nuances.

(ii) The relevance of emotions and inner states to the description ofperception and cognition in different languages, suggesting a pattern that iscentral to expanding the discussion of perception and cognition.

(iii) The presentation of data that suggest extensions from perception tocognition from heterodox sensory modalities, such as ‘smell’ (chapter 2) and‘taste’ (chapter 7), as well as unusual intrafield extensions, such as from‘taste’ to ‘smell’ (chapter 7).

(iv) The use of cultural practice and worldview as explanatory bases forcorrelations between the lexicalization patterns and grammatical behavior ofperception and cognition verbs, suggesting that in addition to transfieldsemantic extensions of perception to cognition (cf. Evans and Wilkins 2000),intrafield extensions and the semantic complexity of perception terms are alsorelated to cultural standards (especially Chapters 2, 5, 6, 7 and 10).

The book provides potentially rich directions for the description and typologyof perception and cognition, but it was not meant to provide a single,programmatic framework. Rather its best quality is the diversity of approachesfor descriptive and typological investigation of sensory perception and itsexpression in the lexicon, grammar and discourse. It is also a valuableresource for anyone interested in learning from ongoing explorations into theinterconnectedness of perception, cognition and culture. Chapter 1 gives thewhole book coherence by highlighting research questions one faces whenanalyzing the linguistic expression of perception and cognition in individuallanguages, as well as the challenges surrounding the typology of perceptionverbs. Most of the descriptive chapters in this volume are centered on similardescriptive and functional-typological concerns, although they all presentdifferent methods and perspectives. Ultimately, this positively reflectsdistinct alternative approaches.

As the editors say throughout Chapter 1, typological investigation into therealm of perception and cognition is still in its early stages, and providinga clear-cut correlation between grammar, lexicon and culture is a complextask. This has certainly motivated the non-systematic, albeit original, highlyinformative and provocative typological and theoretical perspectives that wefind throughout the book. Some books set frames, others expand them. Thepresent book clearly belongs to the latter kind.

REFERENCESAikhenvald, A. 2004. Evidentiality. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.

____. 2012. The essence of Mirativity. Linguistic Typology 16: 435-85.

Boas, Franz. 1938. Language. In General Anthropology, Franz Boas (ed.).Boston, New York: DC Heath. 124-45.

Chafe, W. 1986. Evidentiality in English conversation and academic writing. InEvidentiality: the linguistic coding of epistemology, ed. by Wallace Chafe andJohanna Nichols. Norwood, New Jersey: Alex Publishing. 261-72.

Chafe, W. and Nichols, J. 1986. Evidentiality: the linguistic coding ofepistemology. Alex Publishing: Norwood, New Jersey.

DeLancey, S. 1997. Mirativity: The grammatical marking of unexpectedinformation. Linguistic Typology 1: 33-52.

____. 2001. The mirative and evidentiality. Journal of Pragmatics 3: 371-84.

____. 2012. Still mirativity after all these years. Linguistic Typology 16:529-64.

Evans, N. and D. Wilkins. 2000. In the mind’s ear: the semantic extensions ofperception verbs in Australian languages. Language 76: 546-92.

Sweetser, Eve. 1990. From Etymology to Pragmatics. Metaphorical and CulturalAspects of Semantic Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Viberg, Åke. 1983. Verbs of perception: a typological study. Linguistics 21:123-62.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERThiago Chacon is a linguist working on Amazonian languages. His researchfocuses on language description and typology, lexicography andhistorical-comparative linguistics. He has been involved with languagedocumentation and conservation among Tukanoan languages in the NorthwestAmazon and more recently on Yanomami languages.

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