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The cultural cognition of time

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Abstract

This chapter presents an overview of some recent work in anthropology on howtime cognition works and on the human measurement of time. It attempts todemonstrate how language, mind, social process and ecology interact to underpinthe ways in which different cultural groups experience, use and understandtime. I review how time is constituted as a domain, examining different kinds ofunit by which time is divided, and thereafter consider the logics through whichthe organization of time is integrated. These problems include the juxtapositionof cyclical and linear notions; the intrinsic complementarity of idioms ofspace and time; whether ‘time as such’ is a cognitive domain and conceptualuniversal beyond the particularities of local culture experience; whether thearchitectures of dualism and cognitive economy are integral to our understandingof time; the extent to which memory and narrativity are crucial to humanconstructions of time; and whether certain aspects of time organization dependentirely on its encoding in language. The chapter concludes by agreeing withStephen Levinson that the contribution of anthropology to understanding thelanguage cognition of complex domains such as time is through its emphasison grounded ethnography, an insistence on holistic approaches, on comparisonand on the implications of integrating data from the extremes of culturaldiversity.

References

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