Lexicalization Patterns and the World-to-Words Mapping

Barbara C. Malt, Silvia Gennari, Mutsumi Imai

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

26 Citations (Scopus)


Knowledge of words and knowledge of the world must somehow be linked. Words evoke knowledge about the world, and thoughts about the world are conveyed through words. The precise nature of this linkage is far from known however. This chapter sheds light on the connection. The first part considers arguments for a tight mapping between words and conceptual representations, and discusses reasons why these arguments are not entirely convincing. It also briefly considers and dismisses the extreme alternative that there is only the loosest relation between words and conceptual representations of the world. The second part looks at a third alternative, called a "constrained but flexible" mapping. It reviews data indicating that in at least some domains, the mapping between words and conceptual representations is not tight. It considers the ways in which themappings may nevertheless be constrained, and discusses where flexibility is possible despite the constraints. Data is presented from two studies on the naming of human locomotion that test the ideas about both where the mapping is constrained, and where flexibility may enter the picture. The final section discusses implications of the "constrained but flexible" idea for several associated issues.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWords and the Mind
Subtitle of host publicationHow Words Capture Human Experience
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199776924
ISBN (Print)9780195311129
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Feb 1


  • Conceptual representations
  • Constrained but flexible mapping
  • Human locomotion
  • Knowledge of words
  • Naming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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