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Primitives of Motion in Space
lundi 15 mai 2017

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Durant le mois de mai 2017, le labex TransferS, Laure Sarda et Benjamin Fagard (Lattice) accueillent Leonard Talmy, professeur émérite de linguistique à Université d’État de New York, Buffalo (États-Unis). Cette conférence est la première du cycle "How language represents motion".

Primitives of Motion in Space

Spoken and signed language use different systems to represent the Motion (i.e., the motion or locatedness) of objects in space. Each system can be separately resolved into primitives. In spoken language, at the “componential level”, there is a relatively closed universally available inventory of primitive spatial elements. These elements can be grouped into a relatively closed inventory of primitive spatial categories. Each such category in fact includes only a relatively closed small number of particular elements : the spatial distinctions that each category can ever mark. At a “compositional level”, elements of the inventory combine in particular arrangements to form whole spatial schemas. Each language has a relatively closed set of “pre-packaged” schemas of this sort. Finally, at an “augmentive level”, the system includes a set of processes that can extend or deform pre-packaged schemas and thus enable a language’s particular set of schemas to be applied to a wider range of spatial structures.

The so-called “classifier” system of signed language also has inventories of primitive spatial elements and categories, but these differ from those in spoken language. And there are further differences. The system has more elements, more categories, and more elements per category. It can represent many more of these distinctions in any particular expression. It represents these distinctions independently in the expression, not bundled together into pre-packaged schemas. And its spatial representations are largely iconic with visible spatial characteristics. In fact, its structural properties seem closer to those of scene parsing in visual perception.

The findings suggest that instead of some discrete whole-language module, as proposed by Fodor and Chomsky, spoken language and signed language are both based on some more limited core linguistic system that then connects with different further subsystems for the full functioning of the two different language modalities. These findings have implications for the evolution of language.

Voir aussi

  • Extending Fictive Motion
    Leonard Talmy
  • The Targeting System of Language
    Leonard Talmy
  • Neglected Aspects of the Motion System
    Leonard Talmy