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How language impacts memory of motion events in English and French

Abstract : Current debates concern the cognitive implications of linguistic diversity. In this context, Talmy (2000) distinguishes two language types: verb-framed languages lexicalise Path in the verb, leaving Manner implicit or peripheral (e.g. French traverser ‘cross’); satellite-framed languages provide compact structures that systematically combine both components (e.g. English run across). This study tests whether such typological differences affect speakers' memory performance, thereby aiming to address the question of language-specific and universal constraints on spatial cognition. Two groups of English and French speakers (total N = 90) participated in a memory task in either of two conditions: (i) in a non-verbal condition, they saw ten short video clips showing motion (Phase 1) whilst repeating syllables (interference task) to prevent internal verbalisation, then two variants of each, one correct and one incorrect (wrong Manner or Path), and had to decide as fast as possible which one they had seen before (Phase 2); (ii) a verbal condition aimed to test the impact of production on memory in Phase 2, by asking subjects to verbalise the clips during Phase 1. Both English and French speakers made fewer errors in the verbal condition. In the non-verbal condition, English speakers made more errors with Path than with Manner and more so than French speakers. No language effect was found in the verbal condition, where both groups produced more Path-errors. Findings indicate that verbalisation aids memory performance, irrespective of language. However, crosslinguistic differences impact aspects of cognition even in situations that are entirely non-verbal.
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Contributor : Coralie Vincent <>
Submitted on : Saturday, November 7, 2015 - 2:40:15 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - 10:07:13 PM



Helen Engemann, Henriëtte Hendriks, Maya Hickmann, Efstathia Soroli, Coralie Vincent. How language impacts memory of motion events in English and French. 6th International Conference on Spatial Cognition: "Space and Situated Cognition", Sep 2015, Rome, Italy. ⟨10.1007/s10339-015-0696-7⟩. ⟨halshs-01225950⟩



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