Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet


The Semantics of Motion and Directionality: Cross-Type Similarities and Within-Type Differences

Benjamin Fagard (CNRS, ENS, Université de Paris III)

Are there fundamental differences in the way languages encode spatial concepts? Some answers have been brought by the typological tradition, bringing to light a consistent relationship between form/meaning mapping and expression or non-expression of a given semantic feature (e.g. Talmy 1985, Slobin 1996). For instance, verb-framed languages tend to express manner less frequently and less precisely than satellite-framed languages. However, various studies have insisted on the need for more refined distinctions (cf. Beavers et al. 2010 for an overview). Looking at motion expression, we address the issue of variation within language types and similarities across types on the construction level, with a usage-based perspective. For this purpose, we used an elicitation tool consisting of 76 video-clips showing human agents moving in various directions. We elicited descriptions in French, Piedmontese, Swedish, German, Polish, and Thai (12-20 speakers per language). We coded the presence of Deixis, Path and Manner of motion, including their mode of expression. We found both a strong across-type similarity (expression of Deixis was more frequent in German and Thai than elsewhere) and strong within-type differences (the expression of Manner was much more frequent in German than in Swedish; Path was expressed more frequently in French than Piedmontese).