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Formal rules, cognitive representations and learning in language and other cultural systems


This article focuses on the relationship between a formal description of some cognitively driven behavioral regularity (such as language/speech or culture/action) and the cognitive basis of that regular behavior-as seen in Chomskyan grammar, Lounsburyan kinship terminology analysis, and circles in Euclidian analytic geometry. It considers the nature of people's production of the regularity, including their use of "rules of thumb", their learning of underlying regularities, and the increasing abstraction of their knowledge. In this context the role of formal descriptions, including both their attractions and their limitations is discussed-as is the repeated attempts by anthropologists to copy or adapt linguistic formalisms. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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