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Spatio-Temporal Metaphors and Time Estimation

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Presentation on theme: "Spatio-Temporal Metaphors and Time Estimation"— Presentation transcript:

1 Spatio-Temporal Metaphors and Time Estimation
Panos Athanasopoulos (University of Reading) Collaborators: Emanuel Bylund (Stockholm University) Alina Schartner (Newcastle University Ifigeneia Athanasiadou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) Trolle Carlsson (Stockholm University) Tin Carlsson (Stockholm University)

2 Do speakers of different languages think differently?

3 Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
Benjamin Lee Whorf ( ) “The linguistic relativity principle…means, in informal terms, that users of markedly different grammars are pointed by their grammars toward different types of observations and different evaluations of externally similar acts of observation, and hence are not equivalent as observers but must arrive at somewhat different views of the world.”

4 “No one is really sure how Whorf came up with his outlandish claims”
“Language infects and inflects our thought at every level. The structures of grammar enforce a discipline on our habits of thought” Daniel Dennett “No one is really sure how Whorf came up with his outlandish claims” Steven Pinker “utterly boring, even if true” Geoffrey Pullum

5 Modern ‘neo-Whorfian’ approaches
Evidence for Linguistic Relativity colour (Athanasopoulos et al., 2010; Gilbert, et al., 2006; Kay & Kempton, 1984; Roberson, Davies & Davidoff, 2000) number (Casasanto, 2005; Frank, et al, 2008; Gordon, 2004; Pica, Lemer, Izard, & Dehaene, 2004; Spelke & Tsivkin, 2001) motion (Athanasopoulos & Bylund, 2013; Gennari et al., 2002; Papafragou & Selimis, 2010) space (Levinson, 1996; Levinson et al., 2002; Li & Gleitman, 2002; Majid et al., 2004) time (Boroditsky, 2001, 2008; Chen, 2007; January & Kako, 2007; Miles et al., 2012; Núñez & Sweetser, 2006)

6 Time “a concept around which our whole existence revolves“
“a system to sequence events” etc. Time is central to humans. We’ve been obsessed with measuring time ever since the dawn of civilized humanity. A more philosophical definition is “ aconcept…”. A more technical definition is “a system…”

7 Time as an abstract concept
Crosslinguistic differences in the encoding of time Grammatical (e.g., tense, aspect) and lexical (e.g., adverbials) devices Focus of today’s talk: Time metaphors Outline: Spatio-temporal metaphors Crosslinguistic differences in time perception The conditions of such differences Time perception in bilingual speakers Difference in linguistic means that we use to express time.Some languages have tense, others aspects, others both, but what they have in comon is a grammaticalized way to convey temporal information about events. Focus today is on time metaphors, so we are focusing on the lexical side of this cross-linguistic variation. In particular we will look at so-called spatio-tempotal metaphors.Outline:

8 Talking about the time that is yet to happen…
Swedish: framtid (‘front time’) ie ahead of us, to come PAST When we talk about time there are different temporal values that we can talk about. E.g. we can talk about time that hasn’t happened yet FUTURE

9 Talking about the time that is yet to happen…
Commonality of Swedish and Aymara: Succession on horizontal axis Aymara: qhipuru (‘behind time’) ie can’t be seen, unknown FUTURE Aymara spoken in peru. In aymara you reverse the axis: the future is behind, the past is ahead. There is some logic in this. We can’t look into the future just like we can’t see behind us, the future hasn’t happened yet, it’s something hidden from us. Even though these patterns might seem diametrically opposed, they actually have a commonality, which is that they both talk about time as if it was unfolding on a horizontal axis. PAST

10 Talking about the time that is yet to happen…
PAST Chinese uses vertical metaphors in addition to horizontal metaphors Chinese: shàng (‘up’) earlier, past xià (‘down’) later, future; FUTURE

11 Talking about time… Commonality between these ways of talking about time: Spatial reference ”A long rope” ”A long meeting” ”They moved the car forward two meters” ”They moved the meeting forward two hours” (e.g., Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) Source domain: SPACE (concrete) Target domain: TIME (abstract) If we take a step back and look at these apparently different waus of encoding time, we can see that there is an even moire general commonality, and that is that all these conceptualizations rely on spatial frames of reference. We talk about time as if it were something concrete. Consider the examples “along rope etc” we say a long meeting just like we say a long rope, but a meeting cannot physically in and of itself be long. Again, we cannot physically move the meeting forward like we do a car. The point is that we talk about it as if we could. We use the same metaphors. This is a pattern that is accounted for by CMT. What we’re dealing with here is a source domain which is concrete, in this case space, and we are using that as a means to talk about something abstract, which is the target domain of time

12 Talking about time… Different types of spatio-temporal metaphors are used to talk about duration: English: Waiting for a long time long night long party Greek: perimeno poli (’much’) ora megali (’big’) nychta parti pou kratise poly [’party that lasted much’] Distance (Germanic languages); Quantity (Spanish, Greek) Duration = Distance Duration = Quantity If we focus on duration, we find some cross-linguistic differences. Exceptions: I’ve waited a lot: does not convey duration, but a repeated event. We’ve worked a lot on this paper: we are not referring to one instance of working, but to repeated events. Much time in English is not really duation. So, sure, you can use others metaphors, sometimes those metaphors convey a different meaning. But the preferred patterns to talk about duration per se. So English speakers talk about duration as if it was unfolding linearly, whereas Greek speakers talk about duration as if it occupied mass or volume.

13 Talking about time… Black bars indicate the proportion of Google ‘hits’ for expressions meaning long time, and white bars for expressions meaning much time in English and Greek. Casasanto, et al in prep

14 Talking about time… Thinking about time…
What are the implications of these linguistic encodings of time? Do we think of time in terms of space? If so, do speakers with different spatial time metaphors think differently about time? So far we’ve been looking at how people talk about time, how time is expressed in language. The question is, what are the im0lications of these metaphoric ways to talk about time. So the fact that we often use spatial means to talk about time, does that mean that we also think about time in terms of space outside of verbal behaviour. We cannot rely on verbal evidence alone to answer that question. Throw in some examples to demonstrate circularity of reasoning

15 Thinking about time… Duration
What are the effects of these linguistic encodings on time perception? One way of investigating this is to have speakers of these languages looking at animations that depict different symbolic figures, and estimate their duration (Casasanto et al., 2004; 2005; 2008; 2013) One way to investigate this is to see how people estimate the duration of unfolding events

16 3 sek line = distance 16 16

17 3 sek 17 17

18 container = quantity 13,75 cm, 3,67 sek 18 18

19 13,75 cm, 3,67 sek 19 19

20 Thinking about time… Duration
In the test, the participant is given two different kinds of information: 1) temporal information (the duration of the stimulus) 2) spatial information (the length/growth of the stimulus) If the spatial metaphors that we use to talk about time actually influence our thinking about time, then we would expect an effect of spatial information on time perception

21 A 4,5 cm, 2,33 sek 21 21

22 B 10,05 cm, 2,33 sek 22 22

23 A 3 sek 23 23

24 B 3 sek 24 24

25 Thinking about time… Duration
Speakers of languages with length metaphors would be influenced by line length when estimating the duration of line animations, i.e: They would tend to think that longer lines have a longer duration In contrast, speakers of quantity metaphor languages would be influenced by the degree to which the containers are filled, i.e: They would think that the more a container is filled the more time has passed

26 Experimental design Two measures are calculated:
Accuracy of duration estimation Spatial interference Spatial interference: the extent to which the spatial information interferes with time estimation

27 Spatial interference Estimated duration (ms) slope = 0
Horizontal axis: pixels (physical distance: how much the lines grew and how much the containers filled). Vertical axis: time estimation. Slope refers to how large the interference effect is. To what extent they are fooled by the length of the line or the quantity of the filling container when estimating its duration. The larger the slope value is, the larger the spatial interference is. In other words, a large slope means that participants were more prone to be tricked by the length/amount when calculating time. In this example, with a slope of 0, there is no interference. The duration of lines that grew 100 pixels was estimated to be 2500ms, and the duration of lines that grew 500 pixels was also estimated to be 2500ms. slope = 0 Length/Growth (pixels)

28 Spatial interference Estimated duration (ms) slope = 1.39
Here on the other hand, we see what a pattern of interference looks like. Line/container growth goes hand in hand with how long participants estimated its duration to be. So a line that grew 100 pixels was estimated to last for around 2400, whereas a line that grew 500 pixels was estimated to last for around 3200ms. slope = 1.39 Length/Growth (pixels)

29 Casasanto (2005, 2008, 2013) Speakers of English and Indonesian (distance languages) Speakers of Greek and Spanish (quantity languages)

30 Casasanto (2005, 2008, 2013) Crosslinguistic differences in spatial interference in the line task: Crosslinguistic differences in spatial interference in the container task: English Indonesian Greek Spanish Slope 1.49 1.40 .47 .13 English Indonesian Greek Spanish Slope .18 .51 1.24 1.16

31 Casasanto (2005, 2008, 2013) Speakers of English and Indonesian were influenced by line distance when estimating time, but not by filling container growth The opposite pattern was found for speakers of Greek and Spanish These findings seem to indicate that time perception indeed differs across language groups, and it does so in a way that corresponds to spatiotemporal metaphors for duration

32 The conditions of language-specificity
In Casasanto et al. (2005, 2008, 2013), lines and containers were preceded by a prompt that indicated the task, i.e. TIME DISTANCE Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep) removed the linguistic label of the prompt, leaving only the symbol

33 Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep)
Spatial interference, containers [+ linguistic label] [– linguistic label] Spanish Swedish Slope 1.42 .54 p < .05 Before they saw each line or container, there was an hourglass symbolo and the words duration or time appeared next to it. In other words, there was some limguistic prompting which may have made the participants conscious of the metaphors we were testing. So in another condition, we removed all verbal labels. Spanish Swedish Slope .96 .65 p > .1

34 Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep)
Spatial interference, lines [+ linguistic label] [– linguistic label] Spanish Swedish Slope .70 1.21 p < .05 Spanish Swedish Slope .81 1.03 p > .1

35 Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep)
Crosslinguistic differences in spatial interference are reduced in the [– linguistic label] condition The linguistic prompts trigger a set of perceptual distinctions learnt through and associated with language, thus leading the individual to attend to perceptual attributes in a language-specific way

36 Accounting for the influence of metaphor on thought
Associative learning: when people use a linguistic metaphor for time, they activate the corresponding mental metaphor. In doing so, they would strengthen this particular associative mapping. As people use the dominant and less-dominant metaphors in their language according to their distributional statistics, they activate one mental metaphor more frequently than the other(s). This should strengthen one mental metaphor, and at the same time weaken the alternative mapping(s).

37 Does language shape the way we think?
If specific space-time associations are strengthened by frequency of use, then bilinguals might be influenced by the language they use most often So what happens when you learn a second language with different spatio-temporal metaphors? Do the new metaphors influence your ability to estimate time? What factors undelie the extent of this influence?

38 Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep)
L1 Spanish – L2 Swedish adult bilinguals, living in Sweden Age of L2 acquisition: 11.5 (7.8) years Frequency of L1 use: 21.8 % weekly Frequency of L2 use: 78.2% weekly Length of residence: 20.4 (6.1) years Experimental conditions: Lines Linguistic labels (Swedish: tid)

39 Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep)
Spatial interference, lines Spanish-Swedish bilinguals Swedish mono Slope .92 1.21 p < .05 Bilinguals: Spanish users Bilinguals: Swedish users Swedish mono Slope .65 1.18 1.21 p < .05 p > .1

40 Summary Frequency of language use affects spatial interference
Spatial interference in bilinguals using Spanish more frequently converges with Spanish patterns (i.e., L1 patterns) Spatial interference in bilinguals using Swedish more frequently converges with Swedish patterns (i.e., L2 patterns) How early in language development do mental space-time associations appear? Frequency of exposure? Learning context?

41 Language and Thought Linguistic relativity:
People who talk about time differently also think about it differently What is the extent of the influence of linguistic structure on cognitive processes, and what conditions suppress or promote this influence? Conceptual representation Learning and using a specific language can shape mental representations by strengthening specific space-time associations

42 Thank you!

43 Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep)
Spatial interference, containers Spanish-Swedish bilinguals Swedish mono r2 .61 .38 Slope .68 .54 p < .05 Late bilinguals Early bilinguals Swedish mono r2 .88 .45 .38 Slope 1.01 .44 .54 p < .05 p > .1

44 Modern ‘neo-Whorfian’ approaches
Linguistic diversity: Languages encode reality in different ways Thinking for Speaking: Speakers structure information differently when they prepare content for speech Linguistic relativity: Speakers of different languages think and perceive the world differently Indexed by verbal and co-verbal behaviour Indexed by non-verbal cognitive behaviour

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