Verbal and Non-Verbal Cognition in English and French : Adults and L1 Acquisition

Abstract : Spatial systems show considerable variation across languages (Slobin 2004; Talmy 2000). When describing motion events, native speakers differ with respect to the degree to which they pay attention to the Manner in which motion is carried out in addition to the Path followed and this difference follows lexicalization patterns in their language: satellite-framed languages (e.g. Germanic, such as English) lexicalize Manner in the verb root and express Path in adjuncts, while verb-framed languages (e.g. Romance, such as French) lexicalize Path in the verb root expressing Manner by peripheral means, if at all. Such crosslinguistic differences have been shown to influence how speakers and learners represent spatial information (e.g. Bowerman & Choi 2003; Cadierno 2008; Choi & Hattrup 2012; Engemann 2012; Hendriks & Hickmann 2011; Hickmann et al. 2009; Hickmann 2010; von Stutterheim & Nüse 2003). The present paper addresses the question of whether such language-specific factors have a deeper cognitive impact on speakers’ representations (e.g. Filipovic 2011; Gennari et al., 2002; Papafragou & Selimis 2010; Soroli 2012) in adult speakers and on language development by comparing verbal and non-verbal responses across different languages and age groups. This paper presents preliminary findings from experimental studies investigating the representation of motion in English and French speakers (adults, children of 7 and 10 years) who performed tasks based on animated cartoons showing different types of voluntary motion events. The tasks tested (a) verbal production as well as (b) non-verbal vs. verbal categorization (forced choice paradigm) and (c) memory. The present contribution is subdivided into three parts, each focusing on different aspects of our research, with particular attention to categorization and production: 1. Issues and implications for language acquisition (Hickmann & Hendriks): Part 1 provides a general introduction to the framework, aims, and experimental design of our study, highlighting the theoretical and methodological challenges faced by research on linguistic relativity. 2. Adult native speakers’ event construal (Soroli): Part 2 examines universal vs. language-specific factors affecting spatial cognitive processing in adult native speakers, extending the study with data from a parallel system of conflation (Greek) and additional non-verbal measures (reaction times, eye-movements). 3. Children’s event construal (Engemann): Part 3 discusses the relative role of age-related cognitive determinants vs. typological constraints on first language acquisition and conceptualization across languages, also discussing implications for bilingual language acquisition. Findings show that at all ages English and French speakers’ productions are language-specific, showing more frequent Manner expressions in English than in French. In categorization, adults focus more on Path than on Manner. Manner focus also varies with condition (non-verbal > verbal), Manner salience (JUMP > WALK), and type of Path (IN/OUT > UP/DOWN). Children are significantly more attentive to Manner than adults in French, whereas no age differences occur in English. These results indicate that language properties influence verbal cognition more than non-verbal cognition, resulting in differential focus on semantic components depending on language, event types, and age. Our ongoing research addresses further issues that arise from these results by comparing complementary methodologies (video stimuli, memory tasks, eye-tracking).
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Contributor : Coralie Vincent <>
Submitted on : Thursday, September 25, 2014 - 2:41:06 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, August 21, 2019 - 4:46:06 PM

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Maya Hickmann, Henriëtte Hendriks, Helen Engemann, Efstathia Soroli, Coralie Vincent. Verbal and Non-Verbal Cognition in English and French : Adults and L1 Acquisition. Conférence de clôture du projet Langacross 2 " Linguistic Diversity and Cognition : Implications for First and Second Language Acquisition ", Jun 2014, Lille, France. ⟨halshs-01068343⟩

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