Instantiations of the cognitive grounding of linguistically expressed temporal information

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Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2022-06-03
Language: English
Faculty: 5 Philosophische Fakultät
Department: Allgemeine u. vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft
Advisor: Maienborn, Claudia (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2022-04-25
DDC Classifikation: 400 - Language and Linguistics
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Time is a fundamental concept for human behaviour and existence. It is ubiquitous in language, yet, its mental representation is not resolved. Grounded cognition accounts suggest that the mental representation of time as an abstract concept is based on perceptual and motor brain areas. The present dissertation investigated this hypothesis for two instances of grounding of linguistically expressed temporal information. Firstly, the grounding of deictic and sequential time in space by means of the activation of the mental timeline was examined. Secondly, the grounding of duration information via simulation, i.e., the activation of modal representations, upon the processing of expressions containing manner of motion verbs with associated slow or fast movement on a given path was assessed. This was implemented in three approaches. Firstly, a meta-analysis on the space-time congruency effect was conducted. The results show that the effect is robust when time is task relevant, implying that the mental timeline gets activated when temporal reasoning takes place. Secondly, it was investigated whether the reaction time pattern of faster responses to fast-speed sentences (e.g., Clara is dashing to the hospital) compared to slow-speed sentences (e.g., Clara is limping to the hospital) in a motion detection task reflects a processing difference that is ascribable to the simulation of the denoted events’ duration. The results indicate that this might be the case. However, since the observed pattern asks for an adjustment of the original hypothesis about how the simulation of duration is reflected in reaction times, conclusions cannot be drawn until verification studies have been carried out. Thirdly, it was assessed whether linguistically expressed duration information acts on the internal clock like physical duration, thus drawing on the field of temporal cognition to proceed with questions raised within the grounded cognition debate. Reproduced durations increased with an increase in the duration of the denoted events, which implies that linguistically expressed duration affects perceived duration like physical duration. Importantly, this dissertation also assessed whether the mentioned effects can be considered instances of automatic activation of modal representations. Yet, task variations indicate that this is not the case. By seeking out contexts in which the above- mentioned grounded cognition effects are reliable, this dissertation contributes to the ongoing project of increasing our understanding of the conditions under which modal representations are activated during language processing.

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