Oct. 15 | John Lucy: Linguistic Relativity, Semantic Accent

 From: Institute of Linguistic Studies     |     Date: 2012/10/09 

Topic: Linguistic Relativity, Semantic Accent, And Human Development
Date: 15 October 2012
Time: 15:00
Venue: Room 606, Run Run Shaw Library, Hongkou Campus
Language: English
Event type: Public Lecture
Summary: This lecture will provide an overview of his research on linguistic relativity, semantic accent, and their implications for our view of human development. He will begin by providing some historical and conceptual background on the study of linguistic relativity, that is, the proposal that the language we speak affects the way we think. He will then describe his research on this topic, focusing on the impact of different verbal number marking patterns in English and Maya on nonlinguistic cognition such as perception, classification, and memory. He will then describe his more recent developmental research, which shows that relativity effects first appear during middle childhood. This will set the stage for a discussion of the changes in verbal abilities in middle childhood, both new verbal skills and increasing susceptibility to linguistic relativity and what he calls “semantic accent.” He concludes with some reflections on what this research suggests for human development and the scientific research enterprise itself.
Lucy (in press) uses the term “semantic accent” to describe habits of thought that become more entrenched over time—just as we gradually lose the ability to make the sounds of a foreign language, so might we lose the ability to think in the terms of a foreign grammar. (quoted from Language as Lens: Plurality Marking and Numeral Learning in English, Japanese, and Russian, B.W. Sarnecka, V.G. Kamenskaya, T. Ogura, Y. Yamana, & J.B.Yudovina.


Speaker Biography: John A. Lucy received his Ph.D. in Human Development from the University of Chicago in 1987. He has taught in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently the William Benton Professor in the Departments of Psychology and of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago.

Lucy’s research focuses on the relation between language and thought, especially on the role language plays in shaping thought. He has done over thirty years of ethnographic, linguistic, and psychological research among the Mayan-speaking people of the Yucatan region of Mexico. His early work was comparative, examining the linguistic relativity hypothesis, that is, the proposal that the particular language we speak influences the way we think. This work appeared in Language Diversity and Thought (Cambridge, 1992), which reviewed the history of research in this field; Grammatical Categories and Cognition (Cambridge, 1992), which outlined a new empirical approach; and in various papers that analyze contemporary research (e.g., Lucy 1996, 1997). His more recent work has added a developmental perspective, exploring how languages come to influence thought during middle childhood. This work has appeared in various book chapters (e.g., Lucy & Gaskins 2001, 2003; Lucy 2004) and in a forthcoming monograph. Running through all this work has been a concern with how language affects how we think about language itself. This work has appeared in his edited volume Reflexive Language: Reported Speech and Metapragmatics (Cambridge, 1993) and in various papers (e.g., Lucy 2010).
Lucy has been Guggenheim Fellow, a Mellon Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and, on three occasions, a Visiting Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. He has received major research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Department of Education, the Social Science Research Council, and the Spencer Foundation. He has served as an officer in the Society for Linguistic Anthropology and the Society for Psychological Anthropology. At the University of Chicago, he has served as the Chair of the Department of Comparative Human Development, as Master and Deputy Dean of the Social Sciences, and as Coordinator of the indigenous language programs in the Center for Latin American Studies.
Time: 2012-10-10 Visitor: