[PS-3.76] The interpretation of spatial expressions in English, German, Italian and Polish

Stoltmann, K. . 1, 2 & Krifka, M. 2, 1

1 Centre for General Linguistics (ZAS), Berlin, Germany
2 Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

Spatial relations can be produced and interpreted regarding three reference frames: absolute, relative, or intrinsic, depending on the situation. Native Speakers of English, German, Italian and Polish set the absolute perspective, when reference to geographic space.
However, in everyday situations, they use either the relative or intrinsic reference frame for the interpretation and production of spatial relations (Herrmann 1990, Levinson 2003). The relationships between the located object and the relatum in a spatial relation are expressed in these four languages using adpositions (Ehrich 1992, Carstensen 2002).
The aim of the poster is to show results of a questionnare study with 561 participants and a video study with 16 participants indicating that the interpretation of the examined dimensional spatial expressions depends on the language and the situation. Significant differences in interpretation of `in front of' and `behind' were found between German and English native speakers. Italian native speakers deviated most frequently from the egocentric assignment of sides regarding the interpretation of `to the right of' and `to the left of'. They carried out a mental rotation of 180° during the interpretation. Additionally, I will present an ongoing study involving the use of mouse tracking software.