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Thoughts in Motion: The Role of Long-Term L1 and Short-Term L2 Experience when Talking and Thinking of Caused Motion
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5546-6834
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is about whether language affects thinking. It deals with the linguistic relativity hypothesis, which proposes that the language we speak influences the way we think. This hypothesis is investigated in the domain of caused motion (e.g., ‘The man rolled the tyre into the garage’), by looking at Spanish and Swedish, two languages that show striking differences in how motion events are encoded. The thesis consists of four studies. The first two focus on native speakers of Spanish and Swedish. Study I compares how Spanish and Swedish speakers describe the same set of caused motion events, directing the spotlight at how variable the descriptions are in each language. The results confirm earlier findings from semantic typology regarding the dominant ways of expressing the events in each language: Spanish behaves like a verb-framed language and Swedish like a satellite-framed language (Talmy, 2000). Going beyond previous findings, the study demonstrates—using the tools of entropy and Monte Carlo simulations—that there is markedly more variability in Spanish than in Swedish descriptions. Study II tests whether differences in how Spanish and Swedish speakers describe caused motion events are reflected in how they think about such events. Using a novel similarity arrangement task, it is found that Spanish and Swedish speakers partly differ in how they represent caused motion events if they can access language during the task. However, the differences disappear when the possibility to use language is momentarily blocked by an interference task. The last two studies focus on Swedish learners of Spanish as a second language (L2). Study III explores how Swedish learners (compared to native Spanish speakers) adapt their Spanish motion descriptions to recently encountered input. Using insights from the literature on structural priming, we find that Swedish learners initially expect to encounter in their L2, Spanish, those verb types that are typical in Swedish (manner verbs like ‘roll’) but that, with increasing proficiency, their expectations become increasingly attuned to the typical Spanish pattern of using path verbs (like ‘enter’).  These expectations are reflected in the way L2 learners adapt their own production to the Spanish input. Study IV asks whether recent linguistic experience in an L2 can affect how L2 learners think about motion events. It is found that encountering motion descriptions in the L2 that emphasize different types of information (path or manner) leads L2 speakers to perceive similarity along different dimensions in a subsequent similarity arrangement task. Taken together, the thesis argues that the study of the relation between language and thought affords more valuable insights when not posed as an either-or question (i.e., does language affect thought or not?). In this spirit, the thesis contributes to the wider aim of investigating the conditions under which language does or does not affect thought and explores what the different outcomes tell us about language, thought, and the intricate mechanisms that relate them.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Centre for Research on Bilingualism Department of Swedish and Multilingualism, Stockholm University , 2017.
Series
Dissertations in Bilingualism, ISSN 1400-5921 ; 27
Keyword [en]
Linguistic relativity, language and thought, conceptualization, thinking for speaking, semantic typology, lexicalization patterns, events, caused motion, bilingualism, second language acquisition, transfer, adaptation, priming, Spanish, Swedish
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics Specific Languages Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142197ISBN: 978-91-7649-807-1 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7649-808-8 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-142197DiVA: diva2:1092276
Public defence
2017-06-10, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 3: Manuscript.

Available from: 2017-05-17 Created: 2017-05-02 Last updated: 2017-05-18Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Speakers in motion: The role of speaker variability in motion encoding
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Speakers in motion: The role of speaker variability in motion encoding
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142194 (URN)
Available from: 2017-04-27 Created: 2017-04-27 Last updated: 2017-05-08Bibliographically approved
2. Getting the ball rolling: The cross-linguistic conceptualization of caused motion
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Getting the ball rolling: The cross-linguistic conceptualization of caused motion
2017 (English)In: Language and Cognition, ISSN 1866-9808, E-ISSN 1866-9859, Vol. 9, no 3, 446-472 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Does the way we talk about events correspond to how we conceptualize them? Three experiments (N = 135) examined how Spanish and Swedish native speakers judge event similarity in the domain of caused motion (‘He rolled the tyre into the barn’). Spanish and Swedish motion descriptions regularly encode path (‘into’), but differ in how systematically they include manner information (‘roll’). We designed a similarity arrangement task which allowed participants to give varying weights to different dimensions when gauging event similarity. The three experiments progressively reduced the likelihood that speakers were using language to solve the task. We found that, as long as the use of language was possible (Experiments 1 and 2), Swedish speakers were more likely than Spanish speakers to base their similarity arrangements on object manner (rolling/sliding). However, when recruitment of language was hindered through verbal interference, cross-linguistic differences disappeared (Experiment 3). A compound analysis of all experiments further showed that (i) cross-linguistic differences were played out against a backdrop of commonly represented event components, and (ii) describing vs. not describing the events did not augment cross-linguistic differences, but instead had similar effects across languages. We interpret these findings as suggesting a dynamic role of language in event conceptualization.

Keyword
language and thought, linguistic relativity, event cognition, caused motion, similarity arrangement, verbal interference, cross-linguistic differences
National Category
Languages and Literature
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133512 (URN)10.1017/langcog.2016.22 (DOI)000407564600003 ()
Available from: 2016-09-08 Created: 2016-09-08 Last updated: 2017-09-18Bibliographically approved
3. Non-native (and native) adaptation to recent input during motion event lexicalization
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Non-native (and native) adaptation to recent input during motion event lexicalization
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142196 (URN)
Available from: 2017-04-27 Created: 2017-04-27 Last updated: 2017-05-08Bibliographically approved
4. Thinking Is Modulated by Recent Linguistic Experience: Second Language Priming Affects Perceived Event Similarity
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Thinking Is Modulated by Recent Linguistic Experience: Second Language Priming Affects Perceived Event Similarity
2016 (English)In: Language learning, ISSN 0023-8333, E-ISSN 1467-9922, Vol. 66, no 3, 636-665 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Can recent second language (L2) exposure affect what we judge to be similar events? Using a priming paradigm, we manipulated whether native Swedish adult learners of L2 Spanish were primed to use path or manner during L2 descriptions of scenes depicting caused motion events (encoding phase). Subsequently, participants engaged in a nonverbal task, arranging events on the screen according to similarity (test phase). Path versus manner priming affected how participants judged event similarity during the test phase. The effects we find support the hypotheses that (a) speakers create or select ad hoc conceptual categories that are based on linguistic knowledge to carry out nonverbal tasks, and that (b) short-term, recent L2 experience can affect this ad hoc process. These findings further suggest that cognition can flexibly draw on linguistic categories that have been implicitly highlighted during recent exposure.

Keyword
motion events, linguistic relativity, event similarity, bilingual cognition, Spanish, Swedish
National Category
Languages and Literature Psychology
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133513 (URN)10.1111/lang.12172 (DOI)000380701500007 ()
Available from: 2016-09-08 Created: 2016-09-08 Last updated: 2017-05-08Bibliographically approved

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