LINGUISTICS

The linguistic expression of senses

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Science  30 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6418, pp. 1015-1016
DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6418.1015-e

In Western cultures, it has been argued that vision and hearing are the senses that are most easily expressed in language. One theory holds that this ease of expression for some senses over others is due to universal features of perception. To test whether there is a universal hierarchy of senses, Majid et al. examined how sensory stimuli are linguistically coded across 20 unrelated languages. They found little evidence for a hierarchy of senses, suggesting that although vision and hearing may be the senses most accessible to English speakers, this may not be true in other cultures. These data have implications for understanding the relative influences of culture and language on perceptual experience.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 115, 11369 (2018).

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