Ways to go: Methodological considerations in Whorfian studies on motion events
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Do language-specific patterns of motion event encoding along the lines of Talmy’s (2000) typology of verb-framed (V) vs. satellite-framed (S) languages influence nonlinguistic cognition? Finkbeiner et al. (2002), Gennari et al. (2002), and Papafragou et al. (2002) found language-specific effects in similarity-judgment tasks only under prior verbal encoding or commitment of targets to memory. However, these studies raise methodological concerns: Gennari et al.’s participants found same-path variants more similar to targets than same-manner variants independently of language, while Finkbeiner et al.’s study produced the inverse pattern and Papafragou et al.’s results showed no significant preference either way. We conducted a similarity-judgment task which systematically varies types of manners and paths in 17 genetically and typologically diverse languages. We found an effect of language, which, however, is not directly based on the V/S-distinction. V–languages fall into a group whose speakers strongly prefer same-manner choices and one whose speakers show a weak preference for same-path choices. Speakers of S–languages do not differ significantly, as a whole, from either group. Moreover, there are significant effects of finer-grained contrasts in path and manner that further call into question the generalizations offered in the previous studies.