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The Many Relations Between Language and Thought: Three Case Studies

Cusworth, T (2017) The Many Relations Between Language and Thought: Three Case Studies. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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The nature of the relationship between language and thought is a controversial topic, and it seems every possible position has been defended at some point: from the rationalists of old who equated rationality with language to modern cognitive science which tends to see language as merely a vessel for communicating thoughts. But even these most disparate views share the assumption that the relationship is consistent and stable throughout cognition. However, the rise of modularity within cognitive science challenges the idea that thought is a single homogenous phenomenon, and in this vein, this thesis challenges the assumption that the relationship between language and thought is identical across all domains of cognition. By looking at three different areas of cognition in depth this thesis shows that not only does language have a role to play in cognition (a controversial conclusion in its own right) but further that this role varies across cognition. The first case study deals with how navigational terminology lends a unique flexibility to human reorientation capacities, the second illustrates how swearing helps expand the domain of our disgust response from the visceral to the moral; and the third shows how language allows us to develop concepts of number, for which we have no specialized pre-linguistic mental faculty to deal with. The existing theories of language’s role in each of these areas of cognition often ascribe language too computational a role, casting the language faculty as a domain-general symbolic manipulator. I am wary of ascribing language such computational powers, and instead, show how ordinary communicative functioning of language can lead to significant cognitive effects downstream. The thesis concludes by drawing up a taxonomy of the different mechanisms by which language affects cognition, allowing us to see just how multifaceted the relationship between language and thought is.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.737885
Depositing User: Henry T Cusworth
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2018 10:17
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19924

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