Spatial frames of reference in Yucatec: Referential promiscuity and task-specificity
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A referential communication task conducted with five pairs of native speakers of Yucatec Maya produced evidence of “referential promiscuity”, defined by the unrestricted availability of spatial frames of reference (FoRs) and the lack of a default perspective. Speakers switched freely between FoRs and often combined multiple types in single descriptions. In contrast, a recall memory experiment conducted with 18 speakers revealed a strong bias towards responses consistent with the use of geocentric, as opposed to egocentric, FoRs. It is argued that referential promiscuity makes FoR selection more task-specific, preventing the linguistic conditioning of spatial reference in internal cognition that has been predicted for populations with more constrained linguistic usage.