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Language, Culture and Cognition


Admission requirements



This course discusses the relationship between cultural patterns, language use and language structure (language, worldview, and cognition). It is concerned with linguistic and semiotic relativity. In particular it examines the lexical structure in the domains of space, family, time, ethnobotany, ethnopsychology (emotions and the body and mind), ethnophilosophy (indigenous knowledge, cultural norms). Special attention is paid to the collection and analysis of data in these areas. It explores the cognitive and communicative functions as well as the cultural variation in the use of gestures The course examines the many interrelationships between language & thought and asks questions such as: Do people who speak different languages think differently? Do multilinguals think differently when speaking different languages? Are some thoughts unthinkable without language? Ideas and findings from various disciplines such as linguistics, anthropology, cultural psychology, philosophy as well as neuroscience will be brought together.

Course objectives

The aim of this course is to broaden the students knowledge and understanding of the debates, controversies and pitfalls in studying the reflexive relation between language, culture and cognition.

A second aim is to acquaint students with contemporary methods for investigating world view and its relation to language, culture and cognition.

A third aim is to help students gain insight into the applications of the language-culture-cognition nexus in the challenges of contemporary modern life in domains such as health, child rearing and education.


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Mode of instruction


Assessment method

    1. Each week, there is a discussion of a reading for the topic in the Forum. The discussion takes the form of each participant first posting questions/comments/remarks based on the reading and each student also responds to at least one question/comment/remark of their peers. Active participation in the forum discussion counts towards the final assessment. The average grade of these weekly assignments counts for 30% of the final grade.
    1. Students should write a research essay based on an investigation of the expression of a semantic domain in a lingua-culture of their choice and collect the necessary data and analyse it. Relate your findings to linguistic, cultural, cognitive and communicative diversity. Examples of domains are: time, body, topological relations, personhood, motion, emotions, temperature, placement events etc. etc. (70% of final grade). The research essay should be between 4000 and 6000 words.


Students can resit the essay

**Exam Review

Students are entitled to view their marked examination within a period of 30 days, following publication of the results of a written examination.

Reading list

Preliminary Reading This course builds on the BA course on Anthropological Linguistics. It is therefore assumed that participants have an introductory knowledge about the discipline. To ensure that we all start on the same wavelength, students for the masters class are advised to read one of the following books before hand:

Duranti, Alesandro (1997) Linguistic anthropology. Cambridge University Press
Foley, William (1997) Anthropological linguistics: an introduction. Routledge
Palmer, Gary (1996) Towards a theory of Cultural linguistics. Chicago University Press
Wilce, James M. (2017) Culture and communication: an introduction. Cambridge University Press

They should also read one of the following:

  • Michael Agar (1994) Language Shock: understanding the culture of conversation. NewYork: Harper Collins

  • Guy Deutscher (2010) Through the language glass. Why the world looks different in other languages, London: Heinemann.

Course Readings: Students are expected to read the assigned literature which will be discussed in class followed by a foreshadowing of issues in the next set of readings to be discussed in class the following week (for details, see overview).

Brightspace will be used for: brightspace
Communicating about course content and readings


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Students other than MA Linguistics need permission from the coordinator of studies before enrolling is [Else van Dijk](

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats

E-mail address Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats:

Coordinator of Studies