Perception and language

Roger Lindsay
Table of contents

In the following essay, empirical investigations and theoretical treatments of the relationship between perception and language are reviewed from a broadly cognitive science perspective. The first part of the review examines the idea that the content of perceptual experience can be shaped or modified by substantive features of language such as the characteristics of the lexicon. It is concluded that although linguistic modification of perception is theoretically possible, and readily compatible with several current theories of perceptual representation, the data suggest that such modification occurs only in marginal cases. Recent studies favour the view that language is most likely to influence cognition in the absence of perceptual constraints. The second part of the review considers the structural relationship between language and perception within a framework for cognition largely based on neuropsychological evidence. From this viewpoint it seems likely that much perceptual information never makes contact with the mechanisms underlying language processing or conscious awareness. Even some aspects of language use are apparently influenced by perceptual information that is not available for articulation.

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