.Perceived object similarity in isiXhosa: assessing the role of noun classes

Jonas, Khanyiso (2018-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Categorizing objects is central to the way we as humans interact with the world. Without the capacity to form categories, we might not have been able to function efficiently. It is generally assumed that human beings are consistently in the process of categorizing; such as placing entities into groups or classes during conscious, subconscious and even unconscious states. Research on the relationship between language and thought aims to explore the domains of cognition affected by language, as well as the conditions under which these effects are obtained. The aim of the current study is to examine whether the differences in nominal classification between English (a non-noun class language) and isiXhosa (a noun class language) bring about cross-linguistic differences in categorization preferences among speakers of these languages. An object triads-matching task is used to examine categorization preferences of native English speakers and native isiXhosa speakers, specifically evaluating the extent to which isiXhosa noun class categories influence perceived object similarity. Findings from three different experimental conditions, in which the object labels in the matching task have been given different degrees of salience, indicate that noun class categories seem to have a null effect on categorization, even when noun class membership is made maximally salient. The isiXhosa speakers’ experience with English as a second language is also assessed, suggesting limited measurable influence of this factor on object categorization. These findings are discussed against the predictions of the label-feedback hypothesis, along with the general framework of linguistic relativity and bilingual cognition.

XHOSA ABSTRACT: Ukwahlula-hlula izinto yeyona ndlela abantu abayisebenzisayo ukunxulumana nehlabathi. Ngaphandle kwalo mandla okwenza ulwahlulo ngeendidi, besingasoze sikwazi ukusebenza ngokufanelekileyo. Kukho into ekholelwa jikelele ukuba abantu basoloko bekwinkqubo yokwahlu-hlula izinto, njengento yokuba, babeke izinto ezikhoyo ngokwamaqela okanye ngokoluhlu ngelixa beyenza beyazi, bengaziqondanga ukuba bayayenza naxa bengazazi ukuba benza loo nto. Ubudlelwane bophando eluphakathi kolwimi ngeenjongo zokuphuhlisa imimandla yolwazi noluchaphazela ulwimi, neemeko nalapho ezi ziphumo zifumaneka khona. Injongo yesi sifundo kukuphonononga lo mahluko uphakathi kokusetyenziswa kwesiNgesi ngokoluhlu olwamkelekileyo (ulwimi olungenamahlelo) nesiXhosa (ilulwimi olunamahlelo) izenza zibenomahluko odibanayo kwilingwistikhi nakwindlela yokwahlula-hlula zizithethi zezilwimi. Uhlobo lwesixhobo esibunxantathu noluthelekisa ezi zinto lusetyenzisiwe ukuvavanya izinto ezithile ezahlula-hlulayo kwabo bantetho isisiNgesi nabo bantetho yabo isisiXhosa, kugxilwe kubo nqo ukujonga indlela yokusetyenziswa nokwahlulwa kwamahlelo esiXhosa nempembelelo yawo ukujonga imiyelela/ukuyelelana. Okufunyanisiweyo kwezi meko zintathu bezisetyenziswa ukuvavanya nokuthelekisa oku kwahluka-hlukana nokubalasela kolwimi, lonto ibonakalisa neendidi zamahlelo nanokubonakala njengaphuthileyo kwezo ndidi, nokuba ilungu lehlelo lingabekwa njengelibalaseleyo kulwimi. Abantetho isisiXhosa namava abo kwisiNgesi njengolwimi lwesibini nabo bayaphononongwa, ukufumanisa ngale milinganiselo imbalwa alento yokwahlula-hlulwa. Ezi ziphumo ziye zixoxwe ngokothekelelo lweengcinga engaqinisekiswanga (ihipothisisi) nesicwangcisomsebenzi esingqamene nelwingistikhi nokuqonda ngolwimi kwabo bathetha iilwimi ezimbini

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die kategorisering van objekte is sentraal tot die wyse waarop ons as mens met die wêreld interaksie het. Sonder die kapasiteit om kategorieë te vorm sou ons moontlik nie effektief kon funksioneer nie. Dit word algemeen aanvaar dat die mens gedurig besig is met die proses van kategorisering, bv. die plaas van entiteite in groepe of klasse tydens die bewuste, onderbewuste en selfs onbewuste state. Navorsing oor die verhouding tussen taal en denke poog om die domeine van kognisie wat deur taal geaffekteer word, sowel as die omstandighede waaronder hierdie effekte waargeneem word, te verken. Die doel van die huidige studie is om vas te stel of die verskille in naamwoordelike klassifisering in Engels (’n nie-naamwoordklastaal) en isiXhosa (’n naamwoordklastaal) lei tot kruis-linguistiese verskille in die kategoriseringsvoorkeure van sprekers van hierdie tale. ’n Objek-triadeparingstaak word gebruik om die kategoriseringsvoorkeure van eerstetaal-Engelssprekers en eerstetaal-isiXhosasprekers te ondersoek, met spesifieke evaluering van die mate waartoe isiXhosa-naamwoordklaskategorieë oënskynlike objek-ooreenkoms beïnvloed. Die bevindinge van drie verskillende eksperimentele toestande waarin die objek-etikette in die paringstaak verskillende grade van opvallendheid gegee is, wys dat naamwoordklaskategorieë ’n nul-effek blyk te hê op kategorisering, selfs wanneer naamwoordklaslidmaatskap maksimaal opvallend gemaak word. Die isiXhosaspreker se bekendheid met Engels as ’n tweede taal word ook geassesseer en suggereer dat hierdie faktor ’n beperkte meetbare invloed het op objek-kategorisering. Hierdie bevindinge word bespreek teen die agtergrond van die voorspellings van die etiket-terugvoer-hipotese, tesame met die algemene raamwerk van linguistiese relatiwiteit en tweetalige kognisie.

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