How do we experience different kinds of motion events and how do different languages and individual speakers construe such experience? How is this expressed verbally and gesturally in spontaneous descriptions by children and adults?
We address these questions in an interdisciplinary project combining methods and concepts from phenomenology (the systematic study of consciousness), cognitive and typological linguistics, studying universals and variation in the semantics of languages, and developmental psycholinguistics, studying the way children acquire the conventions of their linguistic communities. We develop phenomenological analyses and tools for eliciting descriptions of motion situations from speakers of four typologically and genealogically different languages: French, Swedish, Thai and Bulgarian. For each language, 20 speakers of four age groups (5, 7, 9-year old children and adults), altogether 320 individuals, will participate in the studies. Analyzing these spontaneous “verbalizations of experience”, alongside with the speakers’ gestures, will provide insights for addressing important theoretical questions on the interrelation between phenomenology and cognitive semantics and between experience and language more generally. The project also has practical implications for language learning and teaching.