Spatial relations in language
Three large-scale linguistic experiments were carried out in the context of this project. The first, behavioral, experiment was administered in populations of healthy monolingual speakers of Russian, bilingual Russian-American speakers of Russian, Russian-speaking patients with language impairment, and normally developing Russian-speaking monolingual children. The second experiment used a more sensitive method – eye-tracking – to examine the early automatic processing of linguistically encoded spatial relationships in a group of healthy adults. Finally, in order to gain finer-grained temporal evidence of whether healthy adults without neurological disorders and patients with language impairment rely on sensory-motor stereotypes, a third eye-tracking experiment was conducted.
Materials in all experiments were based on two types of semantically reversible constructions in the Russian language that dissociate in terms of the word order and the motor stereotype: prepositional (e.g., “The boy is putting a bag in the box”/ “The boy is putting in the box a bag”) and instrumental (e.g., “An old woman is covering the scarf with a hat”/ “An old woman is covering with a hat the bag”). In order to interpret such sentences correctly, the listener has to decode the grammatical markers, such as inflections and prepositions. Importantly, prepositional constructions with direct word order reflect a natural sensory-motor stereotype, while prepositional constructions with indirect word order align with the indirect motor stereotype. In contrast, in instrumental constructions, sensory-motor stereotype aligns with sentences with indirect word order, but not the direct one. The use of such constructions in Russian provided a unique opportunity to tease apart the effects of sensory-motor stereotype and word order.
The results demonstrate that normative groups of language users (adults as well as children) rely on motor stereotypes for comprehension of prepositional and instrumental spatial constructions, which indicates a general, automatic nature of this processing strategy. This is evidenced by shorter reaction times and a higher percentage of correct responses to prepositional and instrumental constructions with direct motor stereotypes in the behavioral experiments, and by eye movement data in the eye-tracking experiments. In contrast, in the group of bilingual speakers, the motor stereotype did not have
Chrabaszcz, A., Dragoy O. (2015). The role of linguistic and nonlinguistic factors in the processing of spatial constructions by monolingual and bilingual speakers. In D. Kryachkov (Ed.), The Magic of Innovation: New Trends in Language Research and Teaching Foreign Languages (pp. 352-357). Moscow: MGIMO-University.
Chrabaszcz, A., Dragoy, O., Iskra, E., and Bergelson, M. (2015). Understanding of spatial constructions by healthy people and patients with aphasia. In E. Pechenkova, M. Falikman (Eds.), Cognitive Science in Moscow: New Research (pp. 216-220). Moscow: BukiVedi.
Chrabaszcz, A., Dragoy O. (2015). The role of linguistic and nonlinguistic factors in the processing of spatial constructions by monolingual and bilingual speakers. The Magic of Innovation: New Trends in Language Research and Teaching Foreign Languages, April 24-25, 2015.
Chrabaszcz, A., Dragoy, O., Iskra, E., and Bergelson, M. (2015). Understanding of spatial constructions by healthy people and patients with aphasia. Cognitive Science in Moscow, Moscow, Russia, June 16.
The project is supported by RHF grant № 15-04-00518а (2015-2017), principal investigator - Olga Dragoy
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