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Exploring the conceptual and semantic structure of human kinship: An experimental investigation of Chinese kin terms

  • Chao Liu (a1) (a2), Yue Ge (a1), Xiaoqin Mai (a3) and Yue-Jia Luo (a1)


We designed an experiment to test the application of optimality theory (OT) in kinship terminology studies. Specifically, we examined the OT constraints within a set of behavioral data using Chinese kin terms. The results from this behavioral approach support and extend Jones' linguistic approach by identifying underlying cognitive mechanisms that can explain and predict behavioral responses in kinship identification.



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Halford, G. S., Wilson, W. H. & Phillips, S. (1998) Processing capacity defined by relational complexity: Implications for comparative, developmental, and cognitive psychology. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21(6):831–64.
Huang, S. & Jia, W. (2000) The cultural connotations and communicative functions of Chinese kinship terms. American Communication Journal 3(3).
Kroeber, A. L. (1933) Process in the Chinese kinship system. American Anthropologist 35:151–57.
Liu, C., Ge, Y., Schiller, I., Mai, X., Igoa, J. M. & Luo, Y. (submitted) Kinship representation differs across cultures: A comparison between Chinese and Spanish speakers.


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