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Differences in how english and german speakers talk and reason about CAUSE

conference contribution
posted on 2003-01-01, 00:00 authored by Bianca KlettkeBianca Klettke, P Wolff
This research identifies how English and German speakers differ in the range of situations they describe as causal and how these difference may influence causal reasoning. In Experiments 1 and 2, English and German speakers described 3D animations of complex events using CAUSE verbs (cause, get) and ENABLE verbs (let, enable). As predicted, English speakers used CAUSE verbs to describe a wider range of events than German speakers. In Experiment 3, English and German speakers viewed 3D animations of CAUSE and ENABLE events and then estimated the likelihood of the effect (E) in the presence of the affector (A), p(E|A), in hypothetical situations similar to the one they just saw. Given the results of Experiments 1 and 2, we predicted that German speakers’ estimates of p(E|A) would be higher than English speakers’ estimates of p(E|A) for ENABLE events, but not necessarily for CAUSE events. The results were as predicted. The findings suggest that English and German speakers differ in the range of situations they describe as causal and that these differences in linguistic coding may lead to differences in causal reasoning.



Cognitive Science Society (U.S.). Conference. (25th : 2003 : Boston, Mass.)


675 - 680


Lawrence Erlbaum


Boston, Massachusetts

Place of publication

Mahwah, N.J.

Start date


End date




Publication classification

E1.1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice

2003, Taylor & Francis


R Alterman, D Kirsh

Title of proceedings

Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society

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