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COVALI : Perceptive and motor constraints and linguistic variation

Themes and actions

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Team webmaster : Véronique BOULENGER

  Motor constraints
  Relevance of visuospatial representations

Motor constraints

The "Projectoire" project is the result of the first collaboration between the DENDY and DiLiS axes of the laboratory. It originated from the observation of certain regularities in semantic typology: in the description of a trajectory, genetically distant languages highlight movement on a vertical axis with respect to other axes. This project aimed to interrogate the execution of pointing movements using a psychophysical approach in order to establish parallels between the expression of trajectory in language and in biological movement. Our results showed that, similarly as "we climb the stairs backwards" rather than "we go back the stairs up", vertical kinematic parameters occur earlier than horizontal ones when pointing up right (Boulenger et al., 2022).

A second project gathers our multidisciplinary skills in the field of manual actions (e.g. reaching and grasping movements) in order to examine how the translinguistic regularities observed in the description of the action can reflect sensorimotor rules present in any manual action. We are particularly interested in the Source/Goal asymmetry found in descriptions of caused placement and removal events. Our hypothesis is that part of this asymmetry has a cognitive origin and could have been learnt during motor development. Along this line, it could reflect some biomechanical and kinematic constraints of putting and taking actions.

Relevance of visuospatial representations

The renewed collaboration between DENDY and DiLiS will question the predominance of visuospatial representations in the expression of concepts in many languages. In music, for example, we commonly use the metaphor of low and high tones even though pitch does not convey this spatial notion. In other languages, on the contrary, the notes are thin or thick (e.g. Turkish), or light or heavy (e.g. kpelle in Liberia). We will examine to what extent the language and the use of these metaphors are likely to tint the perception of melodies with space in the absence of any linguistic description.

Finally, we will also examine at the translinguistic level the significance of vision and hearing in the lexicalization of other sensory modalities. Recent observations point to the large number of sight words compared to words describing other sensory modalities and the frequent semantic associations of these words with conceptual domains such as cognition or attention. Our research will be part of this issue to examine languages which, to date, have not been the subject of research linking the predominance of visual perception in cognition to the lexicalization of other sensory perceptions or conceptual domains.

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