Geographic and manipulable space in two Tamil linguistic systems

  • Eric Pederson
Cultural Differences in Spatial Cognition
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 716)


This paper concerns the linguistic and conceptual contrast between 1) egocentric or speaker-relative spatial reference (such as left/right systems) and 2) absolute spatial reference (such as the use of cardinal directions). Urban Tamils, like European culture, use NSEW exclusively with large-scale or geographic space. In stark contrast with this, rural Tamils use absolute NSEW to depict their manipulable space, e.g. objects located on a table, as well as their geographic space. Urban and rural Tamil speakers were asked to match photographs by verbal description. The director and matcher had identical sets to select from, but they could not see one another's choices. The photos in these sets varied either in the horizontal relations of the depicted objects or along some other nan-targeted relationship. Matches involving horizontal plane relationships were relatively more difficult for speakers using a relative system than for speakers using NSEW. The nature of these errors suggests that fundamental methods of manipulating conceptual representations of space vary according to the basic linguistic system used by each community.


East Side Geographic Space Spatial Reference Equal Error Rate Language Game 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Pederson
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Research Group for Cognitive AnthropologyGermany

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