Living in the Model: The Cognitive Ecology of Time—A Comparative Study

Conference paper
Part of the Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics book series (SAPERE, volume 8)


Time is at once familiar and mysterious, its status in the physical universe being uncertain and contested. Time seems to be fundamental to both biology and to the world of human experience. It seems certain that human beings in all cultures experience time, and have ways of linguistically referring to relations between events in time. It has been proposed by some cognitive scientists that there is a natural, transcultural conceptual domain of time. Cultural conceptions of time, however, vary considerably. I present anthropological linguistic data from a study that my colleagues and I conducted in an indigenous Amazonian community. Concepts of time are cultural and historical constructions, constituted by schematic time interval systems, and embodied in language and culture dependent symbolic cognitive artefacts. “Living in time”, I contend, is to live in a model. Time is both artifactual model and cognitive niche, made possible by the wider biocultural niche of language.


Amazonia Anthropology Cognitive artifact Language Niche construction Linguistics Time 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Languages and LiteratureLund UniversityLundSweden

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