Objects and substances bear fundamentally different ontologies. In this article, we examine the relations between language, the ontological distinction with respect to individuation, and the world. Specifically, in cross-linguistic developmental studies that follow Imai and Gentner (1997), we examine the question of whether language influences our thought in different forms, like (1) whether the language-specific construal of entities found in a word extension context (Imai & Gentner, 1997) is also found in a nonlinguistic classification context; (2) whether the presence of labels per se, independent of the count-mass syntax, fosters ontology-based classification; (3) in what way, if at all, the count-mass syntax that accompanies a label changes English speakers' default construal of a given entity? On the basis of the results, we argue that the ontological distinction concerning individuation is universally shared and functions as a constraint on early learning of words. At the same time, language influences one's construal of entities cross-lingistically and developmentally, and causes a temporary change of construal within a single language. We provide a detailed discussion of how each of these three ways language may affect the construal of entities, and discuss how our universally possessed knowledge interacts with language both within a single language and in cross-linguistic context.
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