In The Leopard’s Spots, Gerrit J. Dimmendaal discusses the interaction between language, cognition, and culture in an African context with special focus on the cultural construction of meaning through language. Such constructions are constrained by our cognitive system, but leave lots of space for culture-specific interpretations and thereby for tremendous typological diversity between languages. This variation reflects the adaptive nature of human language in the same way that the spots of the leopard reflect selective advantages for its natural habitat. But whereas science has essentially one explanation for the rosettes of the leopard, the non-scientific mind may attach meaning to his or her cultural environment by way of language through a plethora of strategies.
Gerrit J. Dimmendaal holds a Ph.D. in Arts from Leiden University, the Netherlands, and is Professor of African Studies at the University of Cologne, Germany. He has published monographs and articles on African languages belonging to three different phyla, Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan, and Niger-Congo.
The volume is of interest to students of cognitive anthropology, anthropological linguistics and language typology.