Conceptualisations of landscape differ across European languages

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Policies aimed at sustainable landscape management recognise the importance of multiple cultural viewpoints, but the notion of landscape itself is implicitly assumed to be homogeneous across speech communities. We tested this assumption by collecting data about the concept of “landscape” from speakers of seven languages of European origin. Speakers were asked to freely list exemplars to “landscape” (a concrete concept for which the underlying conceptual structure is unclear), “animals” (a concrete and discrete concept) and “body parts” (a concrete concept characterised by segmentation). We found, across languages, participants considered listing landscape terms the hardest task, listed fewest exemplars, had the least number of shared exemplars, and had fewer common co-occurrence pairs (i.e., pairs of exemplars listed adjacently). We also found important differences between languages in the types of exemplars that were cognitively salient and, most importantly, in how the exemplars are connected to each other in semantic networks. Overall, this shows that “landscape” is more weakly structured than other domains, with high variability both within and between languages. This diversity suggests that for sustainable landscape policies to be effective, they need to be better tailored to local conceptualisations.


  • Saskia van Putten
  • Carolyn O'Meara
  • Flurina Wartmann
  • Joanne Yager
  • Julia Villette
  • Claudia Mazzuca
  • Claudia Bieling
  • Niclas Burenhult
  • Ross Purves
  • Asifa Majid
External organisations
  • University of York
  • Radboud University Nijmegen
  • National Autonomous University of Mexico
  • University of Zurich
  • Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research
  • University of Hohenheim
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0239858
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Oct 14
Publication categoryResearch
EventLANG-KEY 2nd Project Meeting - Brösarp
Duration: 2018 May 202018 May 24

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