Temaeftermiddag: Language and Motion Events. Foredrag af Wojciech Lewandowski, Johan Pedersen og Bjørn Wessel-Tolvig – Københavns Universitet

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Temaeftermiddag: Language and Motion Events. Foredrag af Wojciech Lewandowski, Johan Pedersen og Bjørn Wessel-Tolvig

Bevægelsesbegivenheder (motion events på engelsk) har efter introduktionen af Talmys skelsættende distinktion mellem ”verb-framed”- og ”satellite-framed”-sprog været genstand for meget spændende forskning. De tre indbudte gæster, alle fra Københavns Universitet, vil belyse emnet fra forskellige synsvinkler. Lewandowski arbejder med bevægelsesbegivenheder på germanske, romanske og slaviske sprog i en konstruktionsgrammatisk ramme. Pedersens fokus er på hvordan bevægelse bliver udtrykt på spansk, og han undersøger fænomenet med metoder fra korpuslingvistik. Wessel-Tolvig kigger på hvordan bevægelsesbegivenheder bliver konceptualiseret på hhv. dansk og italiensk, og han diskuterer produktions- såvel som receptionsdata.


Bjørn Wessel-Tolvig (University of Copenhagen):

Can co-speech gesture change the perception of ambiguous motion events?

Experimental evidence from Italian

How sensitive are we to information provided by co-speech gestures when interpreting ambiguous motion events? Recent findings extent the tight integration of speech and gesture, as observed in production [1, 2], to also include comprehension [3, 4]. This integration implies that listeners integrate information in gestures in the understanding of the utterance.

We present an experimental judgment task in which we investigate the effect of gestural information on listeners’ interpretation of different types of ambiguous motion constructions in Italian.

One of the major limitations for verb-framed languages is the boundary-crossing constraint [5, 6], which predicts that movement across a spatial boundary cannot be lexicalized with a manner verb and a preposition, e.g. as done in the English ‘roll into’. Boundary-crossing motion must be expressed in a different way, e.g. a path verb like ‘enter’ since the prepositional system is inherently locative and these prepositions therefore do not encode the directionality needed to express translational motion across spatial boundaries [7].

Romance languages, and among them Italian, are generally classified as verb-framed languages [8, 9]. However, recent theoretical debate suggests that speakers of Italian may disregard the constraint and express boundary-crossing movement with certain types of manner verbs and complex PP combinations [10, 11]. An expression like ‘Il pallone rotola fuori dalla stanza’ can thus be read as ‘the ball rolls out of/outside the room’. The reading often depends on contextual inference or pragmatic clues [12].

Before testing the effect of co-speech gestures on the interpretation of ambiguous motion event expressions, a questionnaire (109 Italian participants) was conducted to verify the interpretation of manner verb + PP constructions involving different types of manner verbs (directional manner verbs and pure manner verbs). The results confirm the existence of boundary-crossing interpretation for certain types of Italian manner verb + PP constructions.

Based on these results, we created video materials in which an Italian native speaker expressed the same motion events as in the first task, but this time with different co-speech gestures. Half of the verb + PP constructions in each group were accompanied by directional (path) gestures, and the other with locative (manner) gestures. Italian participants (n = 103) were asked to judge the utterances whether they denoted boundary or non-boundary-crossing movement.

The results show that co-speech gesture can change the perception of the events. A locative manner gesture can change the default interpretation of verb + PP constructions that allow boundary-crossing readings to be interpreted as locative, and directional path gestures can change the interpretation of verb + PP constructions that do not allow boundary-crossing interpretation to be perceived as boundary-crossing.

To summarize, the study confirms the existence of boundary-crossing interpretations for certain types of Italian manner verb + PP constructions, but more importantly that co-speech gestures can change the perception of events and thus ‘override’ default meaning expressed only in speech.

[1]     D. McNeill, Gesture & Thought. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005.

[2]     A. Kendon, "Gesture and speech: two aspects of the process of utterance," in Nonverbal Communication and Language, M. R. Key, Ed., ed The Hague: Mouton, 1980, pp. 207-227.

[3]     S. Kelly, A. Özyürek, and E. Maris, "Two Sides of the Same Coin: Speech and Gesture Mutually Interact to Enhance Comprehension," Psychological Science, vol. 21, pp. 260-267, February 1, 2010 2010.

[4]     H. Holle and T. C. Gunter, "The Role of Iconic Gestures in Speech Disambiguation: ERP Evidence," Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, vol. 19, pp. 1175-1192, 2007/07/01 2007.

[5]     R. A. Berman and D. I. Slobin, Relating events in narrative: A crosslinguistic developmental study. Hillsdale, NJ: Psychology Press, 1994.

[6]     J. Aske, "Path predicates in English and Spanish: A closer look," in Berkeley Linguistic Society 15, Berkeley, USA, 1989.

[7]     Ş. Özçalışkan, "Ways of crossing a spatial boundary in typologically distinct languages," Applied Psycholinguistics, vol. FirstView, pp. 1-24, 2013.

[8]     A. Pavlenko, Thinking and speaking in two languages. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters, 2011.

[9]     Z. Han and T. Cadierno, Linguistic relativity in SLA: Thinking for speaking. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2010.

[10]   F.-E. Cardini, "Grammatical constraints and verb-framed languages: The case of Italian," Language and Cognition, vol. 4, pp. 167-201, 2012.

[11]   R. Folli, "Complex PPs in Italian," in Syntax and Semantics of Spatial P., A. Asbury, J. Dotlacil, B. Gehrke, and R. Nouwen, Eds., ed: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2008, pp. 197-221.

[12]   J. Beavers, B. Levin, and S. Wei Tham, "The typology of motion expressions revisited," Journal of Linguistics, vol. 46, pp. 331-377, 2010.


Wojciech Lewandowski (University of Copenhagen):

A typological approach to rhetoric style

Evidence from the domain of motion

This study reports on findings from an elicited narrative task in which native speakers of three genetically different languages, German, Polish, and Spanish, were asked to describe motion scenes from an extract of Chaplin’s City Lights. The results show that linguistic typology has an important predictive power as far as rhetoric style is concerned; however, since typological generalizations usually refer to tendencies rather than sharp divisions between languages, it is crucial to pay attention to the specific resources of a given language that are available for describing a particular conceptual domain. Specifically, although German and Polish pertain to the same typological group (satellite-framed), as opposed to Spanish (verb-framed), they exploit their predominant lexicalization pattern in a different way and this has an enormous impact on the rhetoric style. Principally, the (apparently small) difference between prefix (Polish) and particle (German) satellites has a very remarkable impact upon the dynamicity and diversity of path and manner elaborations.  In particular, (i) the inventory of German satellites is more heterogenous than the inventory of Polish prefixes thus allowing for more vivid path descriptions; (ii) bounded events require a prefix in Polish, while aspect is not a morphological category in German and hence German conceptualizations of bounded events embrace a larger number of constructional frames; (iii) prefixes are more lexicalized with the verb than particles and, consequently, the accumulation of more than one bounded path segment in a single clause is highly constrained in Polish but not in German; (iv) since particles show a high degree of morpho-syntactically flexibility, they combine easily with high-manner verbs; by contrast, prefixes show a lower degree of compatibility with high-manner verbs, which constraints their appearance in motion descriptions.


Johan Pedersen (University of Copenhagen):

Spanish constructions of directed motion in a cross-linguistic perspective

Constructional variation and framing strategies     

In typological studies of expressions of motion events, there is a need for a quantitative methodology that assesses and qualifies inter- and intra-linguistic variation. In this talk, I report from a large corpus study of the use of Spanish motion verbs in constructions of telic motion. Particularly, Spanish constructions of telic motion with manner verbs (Michel corrió al molino ‘Michel ran to the mill’) is a problematic case for the influential Talmian typology and related frameworks. According to these frameworks the basic meaning of directed motion (the path of motion) should be expressed by means of a path verb (ir ‘to go’, venir ‘to come’, enter ‘to move in’, bajar ‘to go down’ etc.). The ‘manner verb + telic motion’-variant is usually rejected by lexicalist oriented approaches (e.g., Talmy 2000; Aske 1989; Son 2007; among many others), but it is also a serious challenge for constructionist frameworks anchored in English grammar. The latter frameworks also tend to reject this variant.

In the corpus study, verb associations with the constructional V-slot were measured by using collostructional methodology (Stefanowitsch & Gries, 2003). I demonstrated that the ‘manner verb + telic construction’-variant may be an option if the lexical meaning of the manner verb implies an element of directedness (e.g., correr ‘to run’, trepar ‘to crawl’, volar ‘to fly’), which is not the same as a specific path (therefore, they are manner verbs as usually assumed, and not path verbs). As an overall result, six categories of construction-specific verbal variation were identified (a specific construction of telic motion).

Based on constructionist principles for the encoding of argument structure (Goldberg 2006 among others) and earlier work (Pedersen 2009a, 2009b, 2013, 2014, 2016). I suggest that Spanish argument structure is verb-driven and that verb constraints versus schematicity is a typological parameter in constructions of argument structure. Specifically, I suggest that the term variable type framing may accommodate the analyzed cases of variation in a constructionist framework (among other problematic issues).

Aske, J. (1989). Path predicates in English and Spanish: A closer look. In K. Hall, M. Meacham, & R. Shapiro (Eds.), Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (pp. 1–14). Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society.

Fábregas, A. (2007. The Exhaustive Lexicalisation Principle. Nordlyd: Tromsø Working Papers in Linguistics 34:2, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway, 165-199.

Goldberg, A. E. (2006). Constructions at work. The nature of generalization in language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pedersen, J. (2009). The construction of macro-events. A typological perspective. In C. Butler & J. M. Arista (Eds.), Deconstructing constructions (pp. 25-62). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Pedersen, J. (2013). The way-construction and cross-linguistic variation in syntax. Implications for typological theory. In C. Paradis, J. Hudson & U. Magnusson (Eds.), The construal of spatial meaning, windows into conceptual space (pp. 236-262). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pedersen, J. (2014). Variable type framing in Spanish constructions of directed motion. In H. C. Boas & F. G. García (Eds.), Romance perspectives on construction grammar. Book series: Constructional approaches to language (pp. 269-304). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Pedersen, Johan. (2016). Spanish constructions of directed motion – a quantitative study: Typological variation and framing strategy. In Jiyoung Yoon and Stefan Th. Gries, Corpus-based Approaches to Construction Grammar, CAL 19 (pp. 105-44). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Son, M. (2007). Directionality and resultativity: The cross-linguistic correlation revisited. Nordlyd: Tromsø Working Papers in Linguistics 34:2, 126-164. University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway.

Stefanowitsch, A. & S. Th. Gries. (2003). Collostructions: Investigating the interaction between words and constructions. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 8.2: 209-43. 

Talmy, L. (2000). Toward a cognitive semantics. Vol.1-2. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.