Space in Language and Cognition: Testing the Localist Hypothesis
Benjamin Fagard (Lattice, CNRS & ENS, Paris).
I will present my research on localism in language: i.e., the idea that, for polysemic words, the spatial meaning comes first, other meanings being derived from it in diachrony. It is thus a possible constraint on semantic evolution, either universally or as a global tendency. In this perspective, the goal of my research is to test and refine the localist hypothesis, with a review of possible counterexamples. My approach is diachronic, with a corpus-based methodology, and a special emphasis on language use; the ambition is to provide evidence for or against the localist hypothesis with a series of case studies. The main question I will try to answer is the following one: can other constraints bearing on semantic evolution explain away the known counterexamples? The case studies in question include the analysis of adverbs and adpositions, mostly in Romance languages, with excursions into Germanic and Slavic languages.