Source-Goal Asymmetries in Motion Representation: Implications for Language Production and Comprehension

Cognitive Science 34 (6):1064-1092 (2010)
Abstract
Recent research has demonstrated an asymmetry between the origins and endpoints of motion events, with preferential attention given to endpoints rather than beginnings of motion in both language and memory. Two experiments explore this asymmetry further and test its implications for language production and comprehension. Experiment 1 shows that both adults and 4-year-old children detect fewer within-category changes in source than goal objects when tested for memory of motion events; furthermore, these groups produce fewer references to source than goal objects when describing the same motion events. Experiment 2 asks whether the specificity of encoding source/goal relations differs in both spatial memory and the comprehension of novel spatial vocabulary. Results show that endpoint configuration changes are detected more accurately than source configuration changes by both adults and young children. Furthermore, when interpreting novel motion verbs, both age groups expect more fine-grained lexical distinctions in the domain of endpoint configurations compared to that of source configurations. These studies demonstrate that a cognitive-attentional bias in spatial representation and memory affects both the detail of linguistic encoding during the use of spatial language and the specificity of hypotheses about spatial referents that learners build during the acquisition of the spatial lexicon
Keywords Path verb  Language acquisition  Motion  Spatial cognition  Spatial memory  Verb learning  Goal  Spatial language  Source
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