Ever since Goldin-Meadow, S., C. Mylander, W. C. So, and A. Özyürek. 2008. The natural order of events: How speakers of different languages represent events nonverbally. PNAS 105: 9163–9168. proposed that there is a preferred order in sequential non-verbal event representations (Actor > Patient > Act), apparently independent of the default word order in one’s native language, the topic has been the focus of much cognitive-semiotic research. After providing a partial review of the field, we describe an empirical study investigating the order of pictorial representations of motion events using a design that emphasized the linearity of the representations to a greater extent than Goldin-Meadow et al. (2008). Speakers of Swedish (default word order: Actor > Act > Patient, or SVO) and speakers of Kurdish (default word order: Actor > Patient > Act, or SOV) participated in the study. Unlike earlier studies, we found an effect of native language word order. The Swedish speakers preferred to place the Patient picture after the Act picture, especially after first describing the stimuli verbally. In contrast, the Kurdish speakers preferred Act after Patient both with and without verbalization. The results of the study suggest that any cognitive or communicative biases for particular constituent order in non-verbal representations are likely to be modulated by linguistic word order, at least in populations reliant on written language in their daily lives.
This study has two goals: First, to give an account of the semantic organization of individually used antonymic adjectives in discourse and second, based on those findings and previous work on antonymic meanings, to contribute to a comprehensive theoretical account of their representation within the framework of Cognitive Linguistics. The hypothesis is that the members of the pairs are used in the same contexts and in the same type of constructions, not only when they co-occur and are used to express binary opposition as shown in previous studies, but also when they do not. The manually coded corpus data from the BNC are analyzed along four semantic parameters: (i) the configuration of the adjectives in terms of gradability, (ii) the way they modify the nominal meanings, i.e., attributively or predicatively (iii) the meaning type of the modified nouns, and (iv) the status of the constructions with respect to whether their meanings are what we refer to as “basic”, metaphorical or metonymical. Correspondence analysis technique is used to identify similarities and differences on the basis of the totality of the data. As predicted, our findings confirm a high degree of pairwise similarity – but also some differences. On the basis of these results, it can be argued that the long-standing controversy within Structuralism between proponents of the co-occurrence hypothesis and the substitutability hypothesis in antonym research is a non-issue.
Leonard Talmy’s influential binary motion event typology has encountered four main challenges: (a) additional language types; (b) extensive “type-internal” variation; (c) the role of other relevant form classes than verbs and “satellites;” and (d) alternative definitions of key semantic concepts like Motion, Path and Manner. After reviewing these issues, we show that the theory of Holistic Spatial Semantics provides analytical tools for their resolution. In support, we present an analysis of motion event descriptions by speakers of two languages that are troublesome for the original typology: Thai (Tai-Kadai) and Telugu (Dravidian), based on the Frog-story elicitation procedure. Despite some apparently similar typological features, the motion event descriptions in the two languages were found to be significantly different. The Telugu participants used very few verbs in contrast to extensive case marking to express Path and nominals to express Region and Landmark, while the Thai speakers relied largely on serial verbs for expressing Path and on prepositions for expressing Region. Combined with previous research in the field, our findings imply (at least) four different clusters of languages in motion event typology with Telugu and Thai as representative of two such clusters, languages like French and Spanish representing a third cluster, and Swedish and English a fourth. This also implies that many other languages like Italian, Bulgarian, and Basque will appear as “mixed languages,” positioned between two or three of these clusters.