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Durham e-Theses
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Relativism in the linguistic representation and cognitive conceptualisation of motion events across verb-framed and satellite-framed languages

Pourcel, Stephanie Sandra (2005) Relativism in the linguistic representation and cognitive conceptualisation of motion events across verb-framed and satellite-framed languages. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The present doctoral thesis addresses the issue of the relation in human cognition between language and thinking, and, more specifically, it aims to investigate by scientific means the potential for a language-particular influence on cognitive activity and putative reflexes, i.e. the linguistic relativity question (cf. Whorf 1956, Lucy 1992a).To this end, the present thesis offers a detailed exploration of linguistic relativity and of its potential scope of validity - at least in theoretical terms. It further situates its study within modern cognitive science, whose epistemological approach to the study of the mind is multi- disciplinary, bringing the fields of psychology, linguistics and philosophy together for the enhanced pursuit of an understanding of human cognition. Having established a conducive framework for the study of linguistic relativity within cognitive science and linguistics, the thesis offers to focus on a specific experiential domain of human life, and on its variable encoding in different languages to seek specific language influences over the conceptualisation of that domain. The chosen domain consists of MOTION - a pervasive domain in humans' daily lives and daily needs of expression. This domain is particularly interesting to relativistic studies as its conceptual components are lexicalised via differing means across the world's languages. Existing typologies for motion encoding (e.g. Talmy 1985) have established at least two main possible patterns, also known as verb- and satellite-framing, and as exemplified by the French and English languages respectively. The essential difference between the two language types consists of their grammatical encoding of the core element of motion, namely PATH - either in a verb or in a verbal satellite ― and of their selective encoding of peripheral elements, such as MANNER of displacement - with this element being optional in French grammar, and obligatory in English. The thesis offers empirical linguistic data to confirm - and also challenge - the fixedness of the patterns identified by e.g. Talmy. A thorough discussion of the linguistic framing of motion is presented, together with experiments bearing on the cognitive reality of motion conceptualisation - independently of language. This thesis thus contributes to an understanding of motion both in language and in cognition. Finally, it offers experimental work bearing on the relativity question, i.e. exploring whether linguistic patterns for motion encoding exert a decisive influence on the non-linguistic conceptualisation of motion, resulting in the two language communities differing in their cognitive appreciation of otherwise similar motion events. The final results offer evidence in favour of differing conceptualisations, that is, in support of linguistic relativity.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2005
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 09:53

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