Sitting, standing, lying or fictively moving: the correlation between posture verbs and fictive motion in a cross-linguistic perspective

Abstract : This work examines the role of Fictive Motion verbs in the expression of static location in English, French and Serbian. We first compare the expression of static location in French, chosen as representative of Verb-framed languages (cf. Talmy 2000), to English and Serbian, two representatives of Satellite-framed languages. These languages use three main types of locative predicates in the expression of static location : a) neutral verbs (e.g. FR. être ‘to be', se trouver ‘to be located'); b) posture verbs (e.g. ENG. to sit, to lie, to stand ), which in many languages have become basic location verbs for describing the location of any entity, animate or inanimate (e.g. ENG : The book is sitting on the table .) (cf. Newman 2002 ; Lemmens 2002a, 2002b ; Grinevald forthcoming); c) verbs expressing fictive motion, i.e. verbs whose reference is to motion, but which actually describe static situations (e.g. The road descends towards the coast ) (Talmy 2000).

We particularly discuss the validity of the distinction between “high-manner-salient” and “low-manner-salient” languages (cf. Slobin 2004) for the domain of static location, seeking more generally to draw a parallel between the motion and location domains (cf. Lemmens forthcoming).

The results of a first comparison between French and Serbian (Stosic & Sarda forthc.) suggest that the limited use of posture verbs in French makes fictive motion more salient. We then test this hypothesis by extending our analysis to English data. Results show that English is more concerned with manner of location than Serbian, because of a more extensive use of posture verbs in locating inanimates. These differences in the use of posture verbs within the group of Satellite-framed languages have very interesting implications for the salience of fictive motion. Thus, as for manner of motion (Slobin 2004) and manner of location (Lemmens forthc.), a continuum of salience appears to exist in the case of fictive motion across languages. Finally, we also show how such cross-linguistic differences in attention to fictive motion can affect human spatial cognition.
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Submitted on : Monday, December 17, 2007 - 3:26:27 PM
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Laure Sarda, Dejan Stosic. Sitting, standing, lying or fictively moving: the correlation between posture verbs and fictive motion in a cross-linguistic perspective. Journée d'Etudes "Langue et Espace" / Workshop "Language & Space", May 2007, Lille, France. ⟨halshs-00198548⟩

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