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Spatio-Temporal Metaphors and Time Estimation Panos Athanasopoulos (University of Reading) Collaborators: Emanuel Bylund.

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Presentation on theme: "Spatio-Temporal Metaphors and Time Estimation Panos Athanasopoulos (University of Reading) Collaborators: Emanuel Bylund."— 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) 1

2 Do speakers of different languages think differently? 2

3 Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis “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.” Benjamin Lee Whorf ( ) 3

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

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) 5

6 “a concept around which our whole existence revolves“ “a system to sequence events” etc. Time 6

7 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 Time as an abstract concept 7

8 Talking about the time that is yet to happen… Swedish: framtid (‘front time’) ie ahead of us, to come FUTURE PAST 8

9 Commonality of Swedish and Aymara: Succession on horizontal axis Talking about the time that is yet to happen… PAST FUTURE Aymara: qhipuru (‘behind time’) ie can’t be seen, unknown 9

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

11 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) Talking about time… Source domain: SPACE (concrete) Target domain: TIME (abstract) 11

12 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) Talking about time… Duration = Distance Duration = Quantity 12

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 13

14 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? Talking about time… Thinking about time… 14

15 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) Thinking about time… Duration 15

16 line = distance 16

17 17

18 container = quantity 18

19 19

20 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 Thinking about time… Duration 20

21 A 21

22 B 22

23 A 23

24 B 24

25 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 Thinking about time… Duration 25

26 Experimental design Two measures are calculated: 1)Accuracy of duration estimation 2)Spatial interference 26

27 slope = 0 Spatial interference Length/Growth (pixels) Estimated duration (ms) 27

28 slope = 1.39 Spatial interference Length/Growth (pixels) Estimated duration (ms) 28

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

30 Crosslinguistic differences in spatial interference in the line task: Crosslinguistic differences in spatial interference in the container task: Casasanto (2005, 2008, 2013) EnglishIndonesianGreekSpanish Slope EnglishIndonesianGreekSpanish Slope

31 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 Casasanto (2005, 2008, 2013) 31

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

33 Spatial interference, containers [+ linguistic label] Spatial interference, containers [– linguistic label] Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep) SpanishSwedish Slope SpanishSwedish Slope p <.05 p >.1 33

34 Spatial interference, lines [+ linguistic label] Spatial interference, lines [– linguistic label] Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep) SpanishSwedish Slope SpanishSwedish Slope p <.05 p >.1 34

35 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 Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep) 35

36 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). Accounting for the influence of metaphor on thought 36

37 If specific space-time associations are strengthened by frequency of use, then bilinguals might be influenced by the language they use most often Does language shape the way we think? 37

38 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) Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep) 38

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

40 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? 40 Summary

41 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 Language and Thought 41

42 Thank you! 42

43 Spatial interference, containers Bylund & Athanasopoulos (in prep) Spanish-Swedish bilinguals Swedish mono r2r Slope Late bilingualsEarly bilingualsSwedish mono r2r Slope p <.05 p >.1p <.05 43

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


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