Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

According to widespread opinion, the meaning of body part terms is determined by salient discontinuities in the visual image; such that hands, feet, arms, and legs, are natural parts. If so, one would expect these parts to have distinct names which correspond in meaning across languages. To test this proposal, we compared three unrelated languages-Dutch, Japanese, and Indonesian-and found both naming systems and boundaries of even basic body part terms display variation across languages. Bottom-up cues alone cannot explain natural language semantic systems; there simply is not a one-to-one mapping of the body semantic system to the body structural description. Although body parts are flexibly construed across languages, body parts semantics are, nevertheless, constrained by non-linguistic representations in the body structural description, suggesting these are necessary, although not sufficient, in accounting for aspects of the body lexicon. Copyright

Original publication




Journal article


Topics in Cognitive Science

Publication Date





570 - 594