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Is It Culture or Is It Language? Examination of Language Effects in Cross-Cultural Research on Categorization

Differences in reasoning styles between Chinese and European Americans held even when controlling for the language of testing. Bilingual Chinese organized objects in a more relational and less categorical way than European Americans, whether tested in English or in Chinese. Thus, culture affects categorization independent of the testing language. Nevertheless, language affected some Chinese bilinguals’ categorization.  The responses of Chinese from the Mainland and Taiwan were more relational when tested in Chinese than when tested in English. Responses of Chinese from Hong Kong and Singapore were equally relational when tested in Chinese and in English. Age and context of learning English are discussed to explain the differential language effects among different Chinese groups. Theoretical and methodological implications are discussed.