Cognitive Anthropology

Document Type



Anthropology (Pitzer)

Publication Date



Activity theory, Belief, Cognition, Connectionist models, Culture, Discourse analysis, Frames, Knowledge, Linguistic relativity, Meaning, Modularity, Schema theory, Semantics, Universals


Cognitive anthropologists study the relation between culture and thought: how contents and processes of cognition vary cross-culturally (e.g., the dependence of meanings on learned schemas) or even situationally (e.g., the effect of artifacts on thought), as well as cross-cultural universals (e.g., of categorization). This article surveys three leading contemporary approaches in cognitive anthropology. The first focuses on culturally variable mental representations; the second on situated, distributed practices; and the third on universals in human cognition. The work of cognitive anthropologists has implications for semantics, discourse analysis (e.g., of narratives, opinion expression, and metaphor choice), and the relation between language and thought.


Please note that this article is an entry in the Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd Edition, edited by Keith Brown.

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© 2005 Elsevier