Evidence for a language-independent conceptual representation of pronominal referents

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Proceedings of the 45th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 2023


Across many semantic domains, cross-linguistic regularities in categorization systems (e.g., color or kinship terms) have been taken to reflect constraints on how humans perceive and conceptualize the world. Such conceptual representations are often assumed to be universal, and independent of an individual’s experience with a particular language. However, in most cases, representational constraints have not been observed empirically on language-independent grounds. This study comes to fill in this gap. We use a card sorting task to provide the first empirical evidence for a common, language-independent representation of pronominal referents, shared by speakers of different languages.