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mar. 07/06/2022 Séminaire de recherche DiLiS
Atelier Typologie sémantique
The cognitive impact of inter- and intra-linguistic preferences for the encoding of locative events in French, English, and Dutch: insights from verbal and non-verbal tasks
MSH-LSE, salle Berty Albrecht
Conférence de :
  • Mégane Lesuisse (Université de Lille, Savoirs, Textes & Langage )

dans le cadre DILIS

The last few decades have witnessed a renewed attention to the linguistic encoding of space, especially with an eye to cross-linguistic differences (Ameka & Levinson, 2007; Talmy, 2000). For locative events (e.g. The vase on the table), French, English, and Dutch differ on the aspect of the locative event that is expressed in the locative verb (Lemmens, 2005). Lemmens (2002) shows that Dutch uses its Cardinal Posture Verbs (CPVs) zitten ‘sit’, staan ‘stand’, and liggen ‘lie’ as compulsory locative makers thus encoding dispositional information about the object, grossly speaking its orientation; a vase is thus said to literally ‘stand on the table’ (De vaas staat op de tafel) if it is in a canonical position. Not specifying these dispositional nuances results in a lack of idiomaticity (Van Osten et al., 2006). In contrast, French and English prefer the neutral être/be: the vase is on the table (Lemmens, 2002, 2005; Lemmens & Slobin, 2008). Strikingly, unlike the case for dynamic motion events (e.g. she ran out of the lab), English patterns neither as French nor as the other Germanic languages, since it tends not to express the manner of location but does nonetheless present some dormant predisposition to the use of CPVs as locative markers (Lesuisse & Lemmens, 2018). These cross-linguistic preferences can lead one to consider the old yet still intriguing question: does our language influence our thought? In other words, do these linguistic preferences influence the cognitive representations French, English, and Dutch speakers have of a same locative event? Our study explores this question in both verbal (Slobin’s thinking-for-speaking hypothesis) and non-verbal contexts (Whorf’s linguistic relativity) through the analysis of recognition memory, linguistic output, and eye-tracking data.
This presentation offers an overview of our results and of our experimental continuum paradigm which comprises three tasks dealing with different aspects of the influence of language on thought. The first task involves two participants and verifies the typological preferences in an interactive setting where the speakers are incited to specify the orientation of the objects. The second task appeals to verbal recognition and investigates typological preferences further in self-oriented speech. Last but not least, the third task consists in a non-verbal recognition task with articulation suppression and appeals to the influence of language beyond the verbal sphere. During the three tasks, the participants’ eye-movements are recorded and analysed (Nparticipants=187). Our presentation reports on several findings regarding the cross-linguistic perception and conceptualisation of static locative events in different experimental contexts.


Ameka, F. K. and S.C. Levinson (2007). Introduction - The typology and semantics of locative predicates: Posturals, positionals and other beasts. Linguistics 45: 847-872. Lemmens, M. (2002). The semantic network of Dutch posture verbs. In J. Newman (ed.) The Linguistics of Sitting, Standing, and Lying. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 103-139.

Lemmens, M. (2005). Motion and location: toward a cognitive typology In G. Girard-Gillet (ed.) Parcours linguistiques. Domaine anglais. 223-244.

Lemmens, M. and D. Slobin (2008). Positie- en bewegingswerkwoorden in het Nederlands, het Engels en het Frans. Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde 118:17-32.

Talmy, L. (2000a). Toward a cognitive semantics. Vol 1. Concept Structuring Systems. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Talmy, L. (2000b). Toward a cognitive semantics. Vol 2. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Van Staden, M., M. Bowerman and M. Verhelst (2006). Some properties of spatial description in Dutch. In S. C. Levinson and D. Wilkins (eds.) Grammars of Space. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 475-511.

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