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Language, Anthropology and Cognitive Science

Maurice Bloch
Man
New Series, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Jun., 1991), pp. 183-198
DOI: 10.2307/2803828
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2803828
Page Count: 16
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Language, Anthropology and Cognitive Science
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Abstract

It is argued in this article that anthropology has relied upon a psychologically misleading and overly linguistic model of culture. Psychological studies show that concepts are principally formed independently of language. Moreover, studies of expertise show that in order to become an expert at a familiar task or a set of tasks a person needs to organise his or her knowledge in a way which is not language-like. The article draws on the theory of connectionism to suggest that most cultural knowledge cannot therefore be organised in the sentential logical form characteristic of language. It is suggested that the traditional anthropological method of participant observation enables the cognitive scientist to understand cultural knowledge without the dangerous intermediary of language.

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