Article published in:Conceptualizations of Time
Edited by Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk
[Human Cognitive Processing 52] 2016
► pp. 125–150
The cultural cognition of time
Some anthropological perspectives
This chapter presents an overview of some recent work in anthropology on how time cognition works and on the human measurement of time. It attempts to demonstrate how language, mind, social process and ecology interact to underpin the ways in which different cultural groups experience, use and understand time. I review how time is constituted as a domain, examining different kinds of unit by which time is divided, and thereafter consider the logics through which the organization of time is integrated. These problems include the juxtaposition of cyclical and linear notions; the intrinsic complementarity of idioms of space and time; whether ‘time as such’ is a cognitive domain and conceptual universal beyond the particularities of local culture experience; whether the architectures of dualism and cognitive economy are integral to our understanding of time; the extent to which memory and narrativity are crucial to human constructions of time; and whether certain aspects of time organization depend entirely on its encoding in language. The chapter concludes by agreeing with Stephen Levinson that the contribution of anthropology to understanding the language cognition of complex domains such as time is through its emphasis on grounded ethnography, an insistence on holistic approaches, on comparison and on the implications of integrating data from the extremes of cultural diversity.
Keywords: anthropology, cognition, cultural diversity, time
Published online: 14 June 2016
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