Abstract: Cross-linguistic studies of concepts provide valuable insights for the investigation of the mental lexicon. Recent developments of cross-linguistic databases facilitate an exploration of a diverse set of languages on the basis of comparative concepts. These databases make use of a well-established reference catalog, the Concepticon, which is built from concept lists published in linguistics. A recently released feature of the Concepticon includes data on norms, ratings, and relations for words and concepts. The present study used data on word frequencies to test two hypotheses. First, I examined the assumption that related languages (i.e., English and German) share concepts with more similar frequencies than non-related languages (i.e., English and Chinese). Second, the variation of frequencies across both language pairs was explored to answer the question of whether the related languages share fewer concepts with a large difference between the frequency than the non-related languages. The findings indicate that related languages experience less variation in their frequencies. If there is variation, it seems to be due to cultural and structural differences. The implications of this study are far-reaching in that it exemplifies the use of cross-linguistic data for the study of the mental lexicon.
Authors: Annika Tjuka (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History)