LINGUIST List 26.4993

Mon Nov 09 2015

Qs: Locomotion verbs across languages

Editor for this issue: Anna White <>

Date: 09-Nov-2015
From: Barbara Malt <>
Subject: Locomotion verbs across languages
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We are interested in whether there are languages that ''carve up'' walking and running differently than English. Do you know a language that does not lexically differentiate between running and walking, or that doesn't differentiate based on gait in the same way English does? If so, we would love to hear from you!

Here is why: We’re interested in constraints on word meanings across languages. Where there are salient, universally perceived distinctions, language may tend to create parallel lexical contrasts. In English, Dutch, Japanese, and Spanish (as well as some other languages), there are words to describe the walking gait and the running gait, which are biomechanically and perceptually distinct. Despite changes in speed of running or walking, we have found that adults and children as young as 4 lexically distinguish walking from running based on gait.

Are there languages that don’t distinguish between running and walking? We would love to know!

Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, Dr. Barbara Malt, and Natalie Brezack

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science
                            General Linguistics

Page Updated: 09-Nov-2015