[PS-2.34] Getting the ball rolling: Cross-linguistic differences and commonalities in the representation of caused motion

Montero-Melis, G. & Bylund, E.

Stockholm University

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 (e.g., 'he rolled the tyre into the barn'). Spanish and Swedish differ in how and whether they lexicalise manner information (e.g., roll). We designed a similarity arrangement task which allowed participants to give varying weights to several 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 or 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 a) cross-linguistic differences were played out against a background of commonly represented event aspects, and b) describing vs. not describing the events did not augment cross-linguistic differences, but instead had similar effects across languages. Overall we interpret these findings as showing the dynamic role of language in event representation.