THE PSYCHOLOGY OF NAMES, NOUNS, AND VERBS
Ph.D. Dissertation, 1989
There is ample indication from philosophy, psychology, and linguistics
that proper names are cognitively and semantically different from other
words because proper names rely on one cognitive ability: naming, while
other content words rely on another cognitive ability: predication, or
categorization. Proper names that refer to people involve three areas
of memory: a concept of the individual stored in memory for particulars,
a generic concept of NAME stored in semantic memory, and the orthographic/phonetic
representations of the name in the lexicon. The use of definite and indefinite
descriptions also relies on three types of memory: a singular category
concept in memory for particulars, the generic meaning concept in semantic
memory, and the word stored in the mental lexicon. Definite of indefinite
descriptions are referential if the singular category concept is linked
to one 'peg' in memory, while the description is attributive if the singular
category concept is allowed to range over possible individuals satisfying
category membership. Proper names that are not referential are stored
in two areas of memory in the following way: the name is listed in the
lexicon but it is merely linked to the wordless meaning concept NAME in
semantic memory. Other content words are listed in the lexicon as well,
of course, but they are linked up to underlying meaning concepts in semantic
memory only. Nouns are not linked to an underlying concept of NOUN and
verbs are not linked to an underlying concept of VERB in semantic memory.
A free recall study of the clustering effect of words by grammatical category
showed that proper names cluster strongly, but other content words do
not cluster by grammatical category. Notions like 'noun' and 'verb' are
found to be only lexical distinctions, not based on inherent cognitive
or semantic differences between nouns and verbs. Rather, 'noun' and 'verb'
are imposed on wordless concepts as the speaker chooses the syntax and
words needed to express his/her thoughts. Some implications for the organization
of the lexicon are examined. Some suggestions are offered about the properties
of concepts and conceptual structures and some recent conceptual theories
are evaluated with respect to those properties.
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