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Programme, How Language Represents Motion

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Lundi 15 mai, 14h

Primitives of Motion in Space

Spoken and signed language use different systems to represent the Motion (i.e., the motion or locatedness) of objects in space. Each system can be separately resolved into primitives. In spoken language, at the “componential level”, there is a relatively closed universally available inventory of primitive spatial elements. These elements can be grouped into a relatively closed inventory of primitive spatial categories. Each such category in fact includes only a relatively closed small number of particular elements : the spatial distinctions that each category can ever mark. At a “compositional level”, elements of the inventory combine in particular arrangements to form whole spatial schemas. Each language has a relatively closed set of “pre-packaged” schemas of this sort. Finally, at an “augmentive level”, the system includes a set of processes that can extend or deform pre-packaged schemas and thus enable a language’s particular set of schemas to be applied to a wider range of spatial structures.
The so-called “classifier” system of signed language also has inventories of primitive spatial elements and categories, but these differ from those in spoken language. And there are further differences. The system has more elements, more categories, and more elements per category. It can represent many more of these distinctions in any particular expression. It represents these distinctions independently in the expression, not bundled together into pre-packaged schemas. And its spatial representations are largely iconic with visible spatial characteristics. In fact, its structural properties seem closer to those of scene parsing in visual perception.
The findings suggest that instead of some discrete whole-language module, as proposed by Fodor and Chomsky, spoken language and signed language are both based on some more limited core linguistic system that then connects with different further subsystems for the full functioning of the two different language modalities. These findings have implications for the evolution of language.

Related reading

  • Talmy, Leonard. 2005. The Fundamental System of Spatial Schemas in Language. In From Perception to Meaning : Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics, edited by Beate Hampe and Joseph A. Grady, 199-234. Berlin : Mouton de Gruyter.
  • —. 2003. The Representation of Spatial Structure in Spoken and Signed Language. In Perspectives on Classifier Constructions in Sign Language by Karen Emmorey, 169-195. Mahwah, NJ : Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • —. 2007. Recombinance in the evolution of language. In Jonathon E. Cihlar, David Kaiser, Irene Kimbara & Amy Franklin (eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society : The Panels, vol. 39-2, 26-60 Chicago : Chicago Linguistic Society.

Mardi 16 mai, 14h

Extending Fictive Motion

Language abounds in “fictive motion” : representing a factively stationary situation in terms of motion. A number of types of fictive motion were described in Talmy (2000). These were emanation paths, pattern paths, frame-relative motion, access paths, advent paths, and coextension paths. But further types occur, including : communication paths, action paths, guide paths, and retro paths. All the fictive motion types, further, intersect with what can be considered metaphoric motion to yield a still larger taxonomy. This talk will focus on the additional types of fictive motion and on their “metafictive” intersection, and will outline the extensions to the system of fictivity in language that they represent.

Related reading

  • Chapter 2 in : Talmy, Leonard. 2000. Toward a Cognitive Semantics,
  • Volume I : Concept Structuring Systems. Cambridge, MA : MIT Press.

Jeudi 18 mai, 14h

The Targeting System of Language

This talk is based on a book by the same title – due out in 2017 with MIT Press – and is included in the present series because much of it addresses motion and location. The book proposes that a single cognitive system underlies the two domains of linguistic reference traditionally termed anaphora and deixis. In anaphora, the referent is an element of the current discourse itself, whereas in deixis, the referent is outside the discourse in its spatiotemporal surroundings. This difference between the lexical and the physical has traditionally led to distinct theoretical treatments of such referents. Our proposal, on the contrary, is that language engages a single linguistic/cognitive system – “targeting” – to single out a referent whether it is speech-internal or speech-external. This system can be outlined as follows.
As a speaker communicates with a hearer, her attention can come to be on something in the environment – her “target” – that she wants to refer to at a certain point in her discourse. This target can be located near or far in either the speech-external(deictic) or the speech-internal (anaphoric) environment. She thus needs the hearer to know what her intended target is and to have his attention on it jointly with her own at the relevant point in her discourse. The problem, though, is how to bring this about. She cannot somehow directly reach into the hearer’s cognition, take hold of his attention, and place it on her selected target at the intended moment.
Language solves this problem through targeting. First, at the intended point in her discourse, the speaker places a “trigger” – one out of a specialized set of mostly closed-class lexical forms. English triggers include : this/these, that/those, here, there, yonder, now, then, therefore, thus, so, such, yay, the, personal pronouns, relative pronouns, and tense markers.
Next, on hearing the trigger, the hearer undertakes a particular 3-stage procedure. In the first stage, he seeks all available “cues” to the target. Such cues belong to ten distinct categories, representing ten different sources of information. In the second stage, he combines these cues so as to narrow down to the one intended target. And in the third stage, he maps the concept of the target he has found back onto the original trigger for integration with the sentence’s overall reference.

Related readings

  • Talmy, Leonard. 2013. Deixis and Anaphora Unified as “Targeting”. International Journal of Cognitive Linguistics 4(2).
  • —. Forthcoming. The targeting system of language. Cambridge, MA : MIT Press.

Vendredi 19 mai, 14h -Dans le cadre du colloque NAMED

Neglected Aspects of the Motion System

In their linguistic representation, factive and fictive motion are organized systems whose components interrelate in specific patterns. These systems were characterized in Talmy (2000a, 2000b, 2005), but most research has since focused on only certain selected aspects of them. The result has been a certain neglect of the remaining aspects and the system-like nature of Motion representation. The aim here is to recall the fuller systems and encourage research to address them.
In particular, the linguistic representation of the factive Motion system includes a number of parameters. One is the range of relations that a co-event can bear to a Motion event – only Manner is usually considered. A second is the range of forms with which a co-event can conflate – only MOVE and GO are usually considered. A third is the range of semantic components expressed in the verb – only Path and Manner are usually considered. A fourth is the range of macro-event categories – only Motion is usually considered. A fifth is the range of multiple macro-event nesting – only unnested cases are usually considered. And a sixth is the set of typologies – only the framing typology is usually considered.
Comparably, the linguistic representation of the fictive Motion system includes a number of types, but the only type usually considered is that of coextension paths.
This talk will reintroduce the neglected aspects of Motion and their systemic interrelations.

Related readings

  • Ibarretxe-Antuqano, Iraide. 2005. Interview : Leonard Talmy. A windowing onto conceptual structure and language. Part 1 : Lexicalization and typology. Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics, vol. 3, 325-347. John Benjamins.
  • Chapter 2 in : Talmy, Leonard. 2000a. Toward a Cognitive Semantics, volume I : Concept structuring systems. i-viii, 1-565. Cambridge : MIT Press.
  • Chapters 1, 2, 3 in : Talmy, Leonard. 2000b. Toward a Cognitive Semantics, volume II : Typology and process in concept structuring. i-viii, 1-495. Cambridge : MIT Press.