Manners of human gait: a crosslinguistic event-naming study

Dan I. Slobin 1 , Iraide Ibarretxe-Antuñano 2 , Anetta Kopecka 3  and Asifa Majid 4
  • 1 University of California, Berkeley, USA
  • 2 Departamento de Lingüística General e Hispánica, Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain
  • 3 Department of Linguistics, Université Lyon2, Lyon, France
  • 4 Center for Language Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands

Abstract

Crosslinguistic studies of expressions of motion events have found that Talmy's binary typology of verb-framed and satellite-framed languages is reflected in language use. In particular, Manner of motion is relatively more elaborated in satellite-framed languages (e.g., in narrative, picture description, conversation, translation). The present research builds on previous controlled studies of the domain of human motion by eliciting descriptions of a wide range of manners of walking and running filmed in natural circumstances. Descriptions were elicited from speakers of two satellite-framed languages (English, Polish) and three verb-framed languages (French, Spanish, Basque). The sampling of events in this study resulted in four major semantic clusters for these five languages: walking, running, non-canonical gaits (divided into bounce-and-recoil and syncopated movements), and quadrupedal movement (crawling). Counts of verb types found a broad tendency for satellite-framed languages to show greater lexical diversity, along with substantial within group variation. Going beyond most earlier studies, we also examined extended descriptions of manner of movement, isolating types of manner. The following categories of manner were identified and compared: attitude of actor, rate, effort, posture, and motor patterns of legs and feet. Satellite-framed speakers tended to elaborate expressive manner verbs, whereas verb-framed speakers used modification to add manner to neutral motion verbs.

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Cognitive Linguistics presents a forum for linguistic research of all kinds on the interaction between language and cognition. The journal focuses on language as an instrument for organizing, processing and conveying information. It is devoted to high-quality research on topics such as the structural characteristics of natural language categorization and the functional principles of linguistic organization.

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