Essentialism in Language

Susan A. Gelman

in The Essential Child

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780195154061
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199786718 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Series in Cognitive Development

 Essentialism in Language

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This chapter argues that language exerts important influences on essentialist reasoning. Two primary ways that language seems to affect the construction of essentialized kind are discussed: one is by conveying membership in a richly structured category (naming), the other is by expressing the scope of a proposition (generic noun phrases). These are then contrasted with two forms that, although potentially relevant to essentializing, are not used to essentialize (the word “kind” and universal quantifiers). The discussion ends by cautioning that, despite the importance of language, there is no compelling evidence as yet that language creates an essentialist stance, or that essentialism requires language.

Keywords: essentialism; children; child psychology; language; reasoning; essentialized kind

Chapter.  27327 words. 

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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