Linguistic and non-linguistic cues in motion event endpoint description: The selection between English to and towards

Yiyun Liao*, Katinka Dijkstra, Rolf A. Zwaan

*Corresponding author for this work

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The current study aims to explore the factors that could affect people’s description of a motion event endpoint. The study conducted by Liao, Dijkstra, and Zwaan (2021, Language and Cognition, 13[2], 161–190) found that two non-linguistic factors (i.e., the actor’s goal and the interlocutor’s social status) affect people’s choice between two Dutch directional prepositions (i.e., naar and richting) during event description tasks. The current study aims to extend these findings by examining the choice between a similar pair of directional prepositions in English (i.e., to and towards). Moreover, we aim to study whether grammatical aspect (i.e., the English simple present and the English progressive aspect) affects the sensitivity to the two non-linguistic factors and consequently also affects how people describe a motion event endpoint. In Experiment 1, we used the English simple present for all sentence stimuli (e.g., he walks (?) the trash bin). We found a significant effect of Interlocutor (the interlocutor’s social status) on preposition choice, but no significant effect of Intention (the actor’s goal). In Experiment 2, we replaced the English simple present with the English progressive aspect (e.g., he is walking (?) the trash bin). We found significant main effects of both Interlocutor and Intention on preposition choice. These findings extend those reported in Liao et al. (2021) Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 35(4), 498–520 in that protagonist intention and interlocutor status were found to indeed affect motion event endpoint description. The current findings furthermore show that grammatical aspect affects people’s sensitivity to these factors, thus also affecting how a motion event endpoint is described.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)982-996
Number of pages15
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

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