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Departmental Colloquium - Christiane von Stutterheim, University of Heidelberg

Wednesday, April 26, 2023, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Event representation in language and cognition

Christiane v. Stutterheim, Johannes Gerwien & Abassia Bouhaous

Heidelberg University


Cross-linguistic studies of event time structures which include Semitic (Algerian Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic), Germanic (English, German, Dutch, Norwegian), and Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish) reveal language-specific effects in the way events are construed, showing that the underlying principles are both perspective driven and linked to patterns of grammaticisation. The studies of the Heidelberg Research Group  cover both verbal and non-verbal tasks in the processing of event-related scenes.

The data elicited from a broad range of typologically different languages were analysed with respect to

  • cross-linguistic differences in the segmentation of the visual input into event units
  • cross-linguistic differences in the selection of components representing events, in particular end points and other types of event boundaries
  • differences in schematisation and with this verb selection and argument structure
  • language-related differences in speech onset times
  • eye movement patterns when processing the visual input for verbalisation

The results are interpreted as language-specific patterns of event construal which are rooted in the respective linguistic system. The contrasts at the level of linguistic form can be linked to differences when processing information for speaking.

The findings will be discussed in the context of the current language-and-cognition debate.