We compared two non-overlapping data sets: (a) the semantic categories in representative samples of nominal classification languages (N = 334); and in a non-overlapping population (b) semantic category-specific impairments of European neurological patients (N = 121). Each of these appears to organize world objects in natural kinds (e.g., animal, body part, plant, fruit and vegetable, liquid) or manmade kinds (e.g., food, clothing, tool, vehicle, furniture). We show that whenever a specific semantic category is found as a cognitive impairment, this category also exists in some language as a semantic classifier. Since all of the existing semantic impairments reports are with speakers whose languages lack semantic nominal classification systems, the present regularities between grammar and cognitive deficit suggests the idea that cognitive universals may constrain how the neural substrate of knowledge is organized and can break apart but also how they can become expressed in different grammars.
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