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ven. 12/04/2024 Perceiving and conceptualizing events across languages: insights into cognitive and linguistic diversity
MSH-LSE, espace Marc Bloch
Conférence de :
  • Efstathia Soroli (Université de Lille & Laboratoire Savoirs, Textes, Langage)

dans le cadre des séminaires DDL : Séminaire du labo


In recent decades, numerous efforts have been made to establish connections between language use and the cognitive mechanisms that underlie event perception and conceptualization (Barsalou, 2008; Lupyan & Clark, 2015). Within the domains of spatial cognition and visual perception, psychological research suggests that visual scanning, and particularly spatial processing, are influenced by both bottom-up and top-down mechanisms (Wolfe & Horowitz, 2017; Chun & Jiang, 1998; Gazzaniga, Ivry & Mangun, 2013) –the former guided by low-level salience processing, while the latter based on higher-level control that depends on factors such as working memory, task demands, and the acquired semantic schemata (Lakoff, 1987; Talmy, 1985).

Regarding the semantic schemata involved in the processing of motion events, it has been proposed that the languages of the world vary greatly in how they integrate the ‘core schema’ of an event (Path) and aspects of the co-event that hold particular supplementary relations to the framing event (e.g., adding information about the Manner of motion). Depending on their lexicalization strategy, the languages fall into different typological categories (Talmy, 2000): (a) in Verb-framed languages (e.g., French) speakers tend to privilege the expression of the ‘core schema’ in the main verb, leaving the co-event in the periphery of the sentence; (b) in Satellite-framed languages (e.g., English, Russian), the core schema is jointly expressed with the co-event in construals that lexicalize Manner and leave Path in the periphery; and (c) in Hybrid or Parallel systems of conflation (e.g., Greek) speakers opt for both strategies equally frequently.

Many studies suggest that such language differences are only surface differences that cannot (or only momentarily) influence the cognitive processing of events (Pinker, 1998; Papafragou & Selimis, 2010). Others support that such linguistic variability extends beyond verbal tasks to non-verbal behaviors (Boroditsky, 2012; Soroli, 2012; Flecken, Athanasopoulos, Kuipers & Thierry, 2015; Soroli & Verkerk, 2017; Soroli, Hickmann & Hendriks, 2019; Soroli 2024) such as similarity judgements, recognition and memory, or even influences low-level visual processing mechanisms (visual attention).

The studies discussed in this presentation investigate whether typological differences, together with other factors (e.g., component salience, event types variation, acquisitional contexts), guide speakers from different linguistic backgrounds (English, French, Greek, Russian) in processing events differently. Additionally, the studies discussed examine how some non-verbal behaviors (e.g., variation in visual processing, in decision making) may serve as indicators of linguistic variability.

This talk adopts a two-way approach to the Language-Cognition debate, focusing not only on how language interacts with non-verbal cognition but also on how different cognitive measures can provide evidence regarding the degree of typological variability of a language system.


Barsalou, L. W. (2008). Grounded cognition. Annual review of psychology, 59, 617-645.

Boroditsky, L. (2012). How the languages we speak shape the ways we think: The FAQs. In M. J. Spivey, K. McRae, & M. F. Joanisse (eds.), The Cambridge handbook of psycholinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 615–632.

Chun, M. M., & Jiang, Y. (1998). Contextual cueing: Implicit learning and memory of visual context guides spatial attention. Cognitive psychology, 36(1), 28-71.

Flecken, M., Athanasopoulos, P., Kuipers, J. R., & Thierry, G. (2015). On the road to somewhere: Brain potentials reflect language. Effects on motion event perception. Cognition, 141, 41-51.

Gazzaniga, M. S., Ivry, R. B., & Mangun, G. R. (2013). Cognitive neuroscience: The biology of the mind. W.W. Norton & Company.

Lakoff, G. (1987). Women, fire, and dangerous things: What categories reveal about the mind. University of Chicago press.

Lupyan, G., & Clark, A. (2015). Words and the world: Predictive coding and the language-perception-cognition interface. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(4), 279–284.

Papafragou, A., & Selimis, S. (2010). Event categorisation and language: A cross-linguistic study of motion. Language and Cognitive Processes, 25(2), 224–260.

Pinker, S. (1989). Learnability and cognition: The acquisition of argument structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Soroli, E. (2012). Variation in spatial language and cognition: exploring visuo-spatial thinking and speaking cross-linguistically. Cognitive Processing, 13(1): 333-337. DOI: 10.1007/s10339-015-0696-7.

Soroli, E., Hickmann, M. & Hendriks, H. (2019). Casting an eye on motion events: eye tracking and its implications for typology. In M. Aurnague & D. Stosic (eds.), The semantics of dynamic space in French: Descriptive, experimental and formal studies on motion expression, 249-288. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Soroli, E. (2024). How language influences spatial cognition, categorization of dynamic motion events and gaze behavior: a crosslinguistic comparison. Language and Cognition, 1-45. DOI: 10.1017/langcog.2023.66

Soroli, E. & Verkerk, A. (2017). Motion events in Greek. Cognitextes – Revue de l’Association Française de Linguistique Cognitive, 1-54. DOI: 10.4000/cognitextes.889.

Talmy, L. (1985). Lexicalization patterns: Semantic structure in lexical forms. In Language Typology and Syntactic Description (Vol. 3, pp. 57-149). Cambridge University Press.

Talmy, L. (2000). Cognitive Semantics (2 vols.). MIT Press.

Wolfe, J. M., & Horowitz, T. S. (2017). Five factors that guide attention in visual search. Nature human behaviour, 1(3), 0058.


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