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LINGUIST List 24.2640

Sat Jun 29 2013

Review: Cognitive Science; Pragmatics; Semantics; Syntax: Filipović & Jaszczolt (eds.) (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 01-Feb-2013
From: Stephen Lucek <lucekstcd.ie>
Subject: Space and Time in Languages and Cultures
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-3426.html

EDITOR: Luna Filipović
EDITOR: Kasia M. Jaszczolt
TITLE: Space and Time in Languages and Cultures
SUBTITLE: Language, culture, and cognition
SERIES TITLE: Human Cognitive Processing 37
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Stephen Stanley Lucek, Trinity College Dublin


Drawn from the ‘Space and Time across Languages, Disciplines, and Cultures’
conference, held in 2010 at Newman College, Cambridge, this volume and an
accompanying volume (“Space and Time in Languages and Cultures: Linguistic
Diversity”) aim to demonstrate that “an all-encompassing understanding of
space and time in language is not achievable in isolation” (p. xi). The need
for an interdisciplinary study of space and time in language is exemplified in
this volume, with contributions from researchers in linguistics, psychology,
economics, anthropology, medicine and neuroscience.

Filipović and Jaszczolt begin by introducing the interface between language,
culture and cognition. Language “impacts cognition by providing the most
efficient system of categorisation, aid to memory, or spatial orientation. ...
[while] culture impacts cognition through entrenching culture-specific
preferences for the understanding of the environment” (p. 1). Thus, the
interrelatedness of language, culture and cognition provides for the
opportunity to approach each discrete unit by way of the other two. The study
of these topics together offers vast cross-linguistic variation which, in
turn, “appears to undermine claims that all languages are the same underneath”
(p. 4). This line of research is summarized by the authors by stating that
“the search for language-specific features informs in turn the search for
language universals and provides insights into how to tease these two apart”
(p. 5). The reader is invited to explore, in this volume, “diversity and
universality ... on the level of human behaviour” (p. 9).

Chapter 1
The first chapter, ‘Event-based time intervals in an Amazonian culture’,
introduces time as expressed and understood by speakers of Amondwa, a language
of the Amazonia of Brazil. It is by describing the culture of the Amondwa that
da Silva Sinha, Sinha, Sampaio and Zinken are led to the hypothesis that
Amondwa does not possess a reckoning of the progress of time nor does it
structure years or even times of day in the same way as Western cultures do.
Amondwa does not have a single word that corresponds with the notion of a
‘day’. These aspects extend to the human lifecycle, during which an Amondwa
person will change their name -- as designated by their place in society -- as
many as five times. The Amondwa notions of time and counting (there are only
four words that are used to count things) are not related, and this low level
of organisation seems to have an impact on the seasonal and diurnal cycles,
which subdivide quite extensively. Amondwa divides Kuaripe (‘time of the sun’)
into periods of new-born Sun to burning sun and small sun and Amana (‘time of
the rain’) into falling rain, heavy rain and small rain. There are matching
transitional phases of Akyririn Amana (‘almost rain’) and Akyririn Kuara
(‘almost sun’) that call to a close the sunny and rainy seasons, respectively.
It is important to note that “No participants attempted to create a circular,
cyclic representation” (p. 26) of the sunny and rainy seasons. The authors
then propose that a “cultural-historical precondition for the schematisation
of time-based time interval systems is the material anchoring of quantified
time intervals in symbolic cognitive artefacts for measuring, segmenting, and
reckoning time, such as calendar notions and clocks” (p. 32).

Chapter 2
Minyao Huang’s ‘Vagueness in event times, An epistemic solution’ claims that
the vagueness of starting points and end points of events is a reflection of
the vagueness of time. Huang states that event boundaries are vague, “partly
because, given the intentional character of events, the conception of event
times represents a cognitive parsing of the physical time, and partly because
the epistemic process underlying the online conception of times takes on a
lagging character” (p. 38). Thus, epistemic vagueness is “a gradation of
epistemic awareness towards the occurrence of real-world states of affairs”
(p. 38). The nature of events as the basic building blocks of space and time
must mean that any study of the vagueness of event times is really the study
of time in general. The vagueness of event times could be due to the fact that
“events could be regarded as *mental representations* of external states of
affairs as perceived in one way or another” (p. 42). The question then becomes
how much of an event is ‘mind-dependent’, which is to say “relative to the way
external states of affairs are comprehended in the mind” (p. 43). Three
theories of temporal vagueness (Supervaluationism, Fuzzy logics and
Epistemicism) are investigated to explain the temporal vagueness of events and
a conclusion is reached that “vagueness in event times could be construed as
the gradation of epistemic awareness towards what is happening in the external
world” (p. 52).

Chapter 3
In ‘Aspectual coercions in content composition’, Asher and Hunter take a
formal compositional semantics approach to their research, which examines
aspectual coercions in English and French. Aspectual coercion refers to a
shift in the semantic nature of an argument that “affects the temporal
interpretation of a sentence of text” (p. 55). In order to do this, the
authors must address this issue “within a larger view of how context affects
interpretation” (p. 58). This is done by first examining selectional
restrictions of an expression ∈ which “pertain to the type of object denoted
by the expression with which ∈ must combine” (p. 58). These selectional
restrictions are similar to presuppositions in dynamic semantics which rely on
input contexts to limit the options available to the speaker. Type composition
logic (Asher 2011) is used as the framework within which “coercion is
constrained ... by the lexical entries for predicates and the coercion
functors they license” which therefore “reflect more basic facts of natural
language metaphysics” (p. 80).

Chapter 4
Alan Wallington’s ‘Back to the future’ looks at where future events are
located. In questioning a commonly held belief, Wallington states that “there
is no direct mapping from locations in space to points in time” (p. 84). To
test his hypothesis, Wallington looks at where the future is happening and
when. Using Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff and Johnson 1980: 44), the
future is generally thought to be ahead of us and the past behind. However,
“it is not time per se that is being described and thought about when we use
language pertaining to motion through space and locations in space. What it is
is epistemic modality [...,] the degree to which the speaker has full or
direct knowledge of an event” (p. 89). Wallington performs an internet search
to consider where Christmas and Easter occur (e.g. is Christmas approaching or
is it ahead of us?). It is discovered that future events can occur behind Ego
as well as various other examples of the future approaching Ego from behind
(of the “creeping up” type (p. 96)). The final proposition then is that “space
is not mapped directly onto time ... but rather that it is used in conjunction
with common sense knowledge concerning the ability of an individual to move
through space and interact with objects therein and to infer Ego’s potential
knowledge of the reified events” (p. 97).

Chapter 5
In ‘The “Russian” attitude to time’, Valentina Apresjan tells us that cultural
attitudes to time in Russian differ considerably from those of English. This
is exemplified in Russian, which features the “key idea that events are
frequently controlled by some outside forces, rather than by the will of the
agent” (p. 104). Apresjan seeks cultural data from the 150 million word
Russian National Corpus which shows speaker attitudes to the timing of events
and relative brevity and longevity of time spans. Her hypothesis that
“speakers are prone to drawing attention to the abnormally long rather than
abnormally short duration of situations” (p. 107) leads to analysing
interpretations of punctuality, simultaneity and succession as they occur with
different time intervals. This reveals elements of the Russian linguistic
worldview, namely that “1. It is unusual and therefore noteworthy when
something happens exactly at the time previously set in schedules, plans or
expectations; ... [and] 2. It is unusual and therefore noteworthy when two
unrelated events occur at the same time” (p. 116). These elements of the
Russian linguistic worldview are then tested against an English corpus (Corpus
of Contemporary American). While the corpus data show a capacity for the same
temporal expressions as those in Russian, the results are nearly the inverse
of the Russian results. Semantic and pragmatic conclusions are drawn from
these data: “[w]hile semantics is frequently language-specific, there are
numerous semantic universals in the sphere of temporality” (pp. 119-120) and
“the idea of event timing correlates with the idea of fateful driving forces
behind these events” (p. 120).

Chapter 6
Bernard Charlier presents ‘Two temporalities of the Mongolian wolf hunter’.
This study of how the Mongolian language reflects cultural beliefs about luck
and fortune in wolf hunting gives us a window through which to view Mongolian
notions of temporality. Charlier examines how time is divided and what
cultural value is placed on times of the month to reveal attitudes to luck and
fortune. Most important to wolf hunting (and therefore, to a connectedness to
nature and goodness of spirit) is the notion of hiimor’ which “resides inside
humans and animals, especially the wolves” (p. 122). Hiimor’ can be attained
by living a good life. One can only kill a wolf if they possess enough
hiimor’, though the capacity to attain hiimor’ changes during the course of a
month. This allows a view into the notions of morality and goodness, “in
Mongolia, [where] interpreting time not only reveals co-existing temporalities
but also different ways in which subjects constitute themselves as moral
persons” (p. 139).

Chapter 7
Carol Priestly’s ‘Koromu temporal expression’ introduces a new line of enquiry
in this volume. Priestly’s work deals with semantic primes, as set out in the
ethnolinguistic tool ‘Natural Semantic Metalanguage’ (Goddard and Wierzbicka
2002). Priestly identifies 64 semantic primes which are lexicalised in Koromu,
a language spoken by approximately 600-700 Papuans. Koromu has a “linear
sequence of time-based intervals ... linked with counting in a number system”
(p. 151). Yesterday, tomorrow and subsequent days in the future are
morphologically linked to the Koromu word for ‘day’ oto, and the number system
(see Chapter 1). Koromu counts longer spans of time in terms of asi, or moons.
The terms for each asi incorporate some element of climatological phenomena or
agricultural necessity (e.g. asi hotu ‘the month of rain and cold’; asi seka
‘the month when crops are ready to eat’).

Chapter 8
Continuing with the Natural Semantic Metalanguage, in ‘Universals and
specifics of ‘time’ in Russian’, Gladkova offers a semantic analysis that
makes it possible to identify “cultural attitudes to time associated with
[time] words” (p. 175). Russian uses two words, primarily, to talk about time:
vremja and pora. While vremja fulfils most of what English uses to convey
‘time’ concepts, pora “collocates with words referring to yearly cyclical
events, parts of the day, or significant stages of human life” (p. 176).
Essentially, pora is used for bounded events; vremja for unbounded events. We
hear an echo of Apresjan’s (Chapter 5) thesis that pora “embeds the idea that
things can be different at different times and that things happen regardless
of people’s will” (p. 178). A similar analysis is conducted into the Russian
words for ‘now’, sejčas, teper’ and nynče. According to Gladkova, sejčas most
closely resembles the English ‘now’ and can also be used for the immediate
past; teper’ is used to refer to “now as juxtaposition to recent past” events
(p. 182); and nynče “implies time that is psychologically perceived as longer
than sejčas” (pp. 183-4). Gladkova’s analysis suggest that Russian
collocations of time and now carry meanings that are differentiated along the
lines of “‘change’, ‘persistence’ and ‘things being outside people’s control’”
(p. 185).

Chapter 9
Langacker begins ‘Linguistic manifestations of the space-time (dis)analogy’
with a distinction between two levels of experience: “basic experience is
fundamental, directly reflecting our biological potential as organisms with
certain properties who inhabit the physical world ... [and] interpreted
experience is non-fundamental, the product of cognition in a sociocultural
context” (p. 191). This dichotomy is reflected in language which possesses
universal features and variability. The roles of space and time are
immediately obvious in the grammatical roles of nouns and verbs. Nouns
represent “bounded objects ... which have both spatial extension and a spatial
configuration” while verbs “typically designate bounded events that extend and
unfold through time” (p. 194). Objects are thought of as existing in space
while events are expressed as temporal changes. By looking at different types
of nouns and different types of verbs (e.g. mass versus count nouns;
perfective versus imperfective verbs) with regards to bounding, spatial and
temporal properties are evident. The universality and variability of language
is ultimately evident in concepts of time and space, as “conceptual and
grammatical asymmetries suggest that time is not just a fourth dimension of
space, having special status if not a fundamentally different nature” (p.

Chapter 10
Bohnemeyer and O’Meara’s chapter covers ‘Vectors and frames of reference’,
which are fundamental concepts in the study of the language of space (see,
inter alia, Tversky 2003; Levinson 2003). Frames of reference are “coordinate
systems that partition space into distinct regions that serve as search
domains for the interpretation of spatial relators in language and cognition”
(p. 218). Using the Nijmegen classification system of relative and absolute
frames of reference, Bohnemeyer and O’Meara look at the role that frames of
reference play in orientation and location. Empirical tests are carried out on
Seri and Yucatec speakers, yielding locative and orientational results which
lead to the notion of vectors and their role in frames of reference. They
define vectors dually as “an ordered pair of places, head and tail,” and more
broadly as “an ordered pair of a place, usually a tail, and an angle between
the vector and the axis of some coordinate system” (p. 239). These two
definitions are dealt with in English by the terms ‘towards/away from’ and
‘uphill/downhill’ respectively. Vectors give languages the ability to orient
the speaker and work in conjunction with frames of reference which provide
location. It is through comparing different types of languages, such as
English, Seri and Yucatec, that we can gain insights into how vectors and
frames of reference actually work at a cognitive level.

Chapter 11
In ‘Verbal and gestural expressions of motion in French and Czech’,
Fibigerová, Guidetti and Šulová examine “how language influences gestural and
cognitive representations of motion events” (p. 255). Empirical tests show an
interrelatedness between gestures and the complexity of the verb used to
express complex motion (those involving path and manner). Manner is encoded in
Czech verbs, whereas French separates the path and manner, requiring two
clauses, so one would expect the gestural realisation to be different for
Czech and French speakers. And this is confirmed: Czech speakers were found to
express both path and manner in their gestures while French speakers have a
tendency to express the path only. Thus, Czech is found to be more congruent
than French, expressing both path and manner in one gesture. The French
phenomenon can be explained as a gestural attempt to “compensate for the
near-impossibility of expressing path and manner within a single verbal unit”
(p. 266). A multimodal approach to further research is urged by the authors
“in the domain of language impact on conceptualisation of general categories”
(p. 267).

Chapter 12
We move on to an empirical study in Filipović and Geva’s ‘Language-specific
effects on lexicalisation and memory of motion events’. Here, English and
Spanish speakers were tested on their memory of motion events to test the
hypothesis that “English speakers would have better recognition memory with
regards to motion events as a result of their language-specific verbalisation,
which facilitates the expression of manner and entrenches habitual focus on
that event component” (p. 274). The results confirm this hypothesis and lead
the authors to further claim that the results “support the weaker version of
the linguistic relativity hypothesis and Slobin’s thinking-for-speaking
hypothesis” (p. 279).

Chapter 13
In ‘Space and time in episodic memory’, James Russell and Jonathan Davies test
children on their ability to remember a simple pattern that has no semantic
basis in order to evaluate their hypothesis that “semantic content can be
experienced without its being conceptually grasped” (p. 289). Russell and
Davies describe an increase in the full completion of their task at around
2.5-years-old, which holds with recent psychological theory that “infantile
amnesia (Freud’s term for our inability to think back to early childhood)
fades away some time around the age of two-and-a-half” (p. 301). Russell and
Davies claim that “the only limitation on studying the role of the
spatiotemporal and of the synthesis of memory elements in episodic memory is
that of the investigator’s own ingenuity” (p. 302).

Chapter 14
In ‘Conceptualizing the present through construal aspects’, Drożdż states that
the boundaries of English temporal constructions are not always clear. In
particular, there is considerable fuzziness around the present tense and its
temporal bounds. Using Langacker’s (2008) approach to cognitive grammar
conceptualisation, Drożdż intends to “shed more light on the concept of
present time encoded in English grammar” (p. 306). Drożdż examines English
tenses to establish if there is any definite bounding between Past/Present and
Present/Future. He finds that the past tense boundary is far better defined
than the future tense boundary in consideration of the present tense. This
adds credence to long-held beliefs that English has only two tenses: past and

Chapter 15
In the final chapter of this volume, ‘From perception of spatial artefacts to
metaphorical meaning’, Marlene Johansson Falck looks at metaphorical and
non-metaphorical path and road constructions. A corpus search and an empirical
study show some tendencies in restrictions for metaphorical path and road
constructions that reflect the perception of roads versus paths. The author
finds “both similarities and differences between people’s mental imagery for
paths or roads and the patterns of metaphorical path- and road- instances” (p.
345). The origins of metaphorical language in “embodied sensorimotor-based
simulations” (p. 348) and “perceptions of the world” (p. 348) are shown to
influence how speakers approach path- and road- constructions.


The Human Cognitive Processing imprint of John Benjamins has consistently
provided top quality volumes for cognitive linguists, and this volume is no
different. While not all chapters will be of interest to linguists, there is
more than enough content that provides vital empirical tests and theoretical
expositions. There are numerous cross-references to the accompanying volume
(Space and Time in Language and Cultures: Linguistic Diversity) which shows a
great cohesion of these two volumes which form the proceedings of the
conference (Space and Time across Languages, Disciplines, and Cultures, April
2010, Newman College, Cambridge).

The chapters in Part 1, ‘Linguistic and conceptual representations of events’
provide insight into typological issues of time and space (Chapter 1) and
theoretical treatments of time and space events (Chapters 2-4). While da Silva
Sinha, Sinha, Sampaio and Zinken give us a great deal of information about how
the Amondawa structure time and how that relates to their counting of objects
and age, there are numerous areas for expansion into how, for example,
Amondawa structures the vertical and horizontal axes and how these notions can
similarly impact spatial reference in metaphor in Amondawa. One weakness in
Wallington’s paper is the reliance on an internet search as a primary test for
locating Christmas and Easter. The theory and the hypotheses of this chapter
are well-formed and well researched, so to use an internet search is a

The focus shifts to cultural perspectives on space and time in Part 2. The
emphasis on Russian temporal expressions leads to a degree of overlap between
Chapters 5 and 8. However, given the size of the corpus used in Chapter 5 (the
150,000,000-word Russian National Corpus), one could easily draw two chapters
from just this material. Chapter 8, on the other hand, is a formal semantic
reading of similar Russian temporal expressions. Priestley’s description of
Koromu temporal expressions pairs nicely with da Silva Sinha, Sinha, Sampaio
and Zinken’s description of Amondawa.

The final part deals with conceptualizing spatio-temporal relations. As Part 3
represents nearly half of this volume, the main emphasis of the volume is on
these conceptualisations. Here, we have the three cross-linguistic
examinations (Chapters 10-12) as well as five chapters concerning theoretical
approaches to space and time (Chapters 9 & 12-15). Bohnemeyer and O’Meara
build upon the work of the Nijmegen methods and classification structure of
cross-linguistic spatial reference which is very much at the forefront of
cognitive studies in spatial language. Amongst the theoretical chapters, the
emphasis on conceptualisation shines through semantic, syntactic and
developmental psychological chapters that reflect the overall focus of this

The quality of the contributions and the span of sub-disciplines across
cognitive linguistics provide a broad base of appeal. However, several of the
chapters could provide more analysis and the reader is directed to previous
findings on which the chapters are based. That being said, outstanding
typological treatments (Chapters 1, 5, 7 & 8), cross-linguistic analyses
(Chapters 10, 11, 12) and theoretical approaches (Chapters 2, 3, 4, 9, 13, 14
& 15) will give any researcher in these areas food for thought. These are all
evolving areas of research and the papers in this volume are certain to
influence future studies.

While there are some copyediting and proofreading errors in the text, it would
be churlish to point out the minor flaws in what is, on the whole, an
excellent publication.


Asher, N. 2011. Lexical Meaning in Context: A Web of Words. Cambridge, MA:
Cambridge University Press.

Goddard, C., and A. Wierzbicka, eds. 2002. Meaning and Universal Grammar:
Theory and Empirical Findings, Vol. 1. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins.

Gumperz, J., and S. Levinson, eds. 1996. Rethinking Linguistic Relativity.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Langacker, R. 2008. Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction. New York: Oxford
University Press.

Levinson, S. 2003. Space in Language and Cognition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Tversky, B. 2003. “Structures of Mental Spaces: How People Think about Space”.
Environment and Behavior 35, pp. 66-80.


Stephen Lucek is currently a PhD candidate in the Centre for Language and
Communication Studies at Trinity College Dublin, where he is carrying out a
sociolinguistic and cognitive study of the language of space in Irish English.
His research interests include language change, dialect contact, global
Englishes, communities of practice, discourse analysis, corpus linguistics and
cognitive semantics. He has previously worked as an editor.
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