Does the road go up the mountain? Fictive motion between linguistic conventions and cognitive motivations

Abstract : Fictive Motion (FM) characterizes the use of dynamic expressions to describe static scenes. This phenomenon is crucial in terms of cognitive motivations for language use; several explanations have been proposed to account for it, among which mental simulation (Talmy 2000) and visual scanning (Matlock 2004a). The aims of this paper are to test these competing explanations and identify language-specific constraints. To do this, we compared the linguistic strategies for expressing several types of static configurations in four languages, French, Italian, German and Serbian, with an experimental setup (59 participants). The experiment yielded significant differences for motion-affordance vs no motion-affordance, for all 4 languages. Significant differences between languages included mean frequency of FM expressions. In order to refine the picture, and more specifically to disentangle the respective roles of language-specific conventions and language-independent (i.e. possibly cognitive) motivations, we completed our study with a corpus approach (besides the four initial languages, we added English and Polish). The corpus study showed low frequency of FM across languages, but a higher frequency and translation ratio for some FM types – among which those best accounted for by enactive perception. The importance of enactive perception could thus explain both the universality of FM and the fact that language-specific conventions appear mainly in very specific contexts – the ones furthest from enaction.
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Dejan Stosic, Benjamin Fagard, Laure Sarda, Camille Colin. Does the road go up the mountain? Fictive motion between linguistic conventions and cognitive motivations. Cognitive Processing, Springer Verlag, 2015, ⟨10.1007/s10339-015-0723-8⟩. ⟨halshs-01241342⟩

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