Metaphoric extension, relational categories, and abstraction

Dedre Gentner*, Jennifer Asmuth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


We propose that concepts exist along a continuum of abstraction, from highly concrete to highly abstract, and we explore a critical kind of abstract category: relational abstractions. We argue that these relational categories emerge gradually from concrete concepts through a process of progressive analogical abstraction that renders their common structure more salient. This account is supported by recent findings in historical linguistics, language acquisition and neuroscience. We suggest that analogical abstraction provides a major route for the development of abstractions in language and cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1298-1307
Number of pages10
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 26 2019


  • Analogical abstraction
  • career of metaphor
  • concept development
  • progressive alignment
  • relational categories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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