Linguistic Expression and Conceptual Representation of Motion Events in Arabic and English: Evidence from Monolinguals and Bilinguals

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This thesis reports the results of a multi-disciplinary experimental study which combines typological, psycholinguistic and cognitive methodologies in order to achieve two broad objectives. The first objective was to provide a comparative psycholinguistic analysis of the expression of motion events in two languages, namely Arabic and English, using Talmy’s typology of verb-framed languages (i.e., languages that conflate path in the main verb) vs. satellite-framed languages (i.e., languages that conflate path in a satellite) (Talmy, 1985) as the framework. The second objective was to investigate the relationship between linguistic representation and conceptual representation by taking motion events as the testing ground. The overall goal of the study was to find answers to three broad and interrelated research questions (RQs). RQ 1 asked whether native speakers of Arabic as a verb-framed language produce and comprehend motion events according to the typology of motion as in Talmy (1985). This was answered by the two verbal experiments: the Frog Story (Experiment 1) and the Acceptability Judgment Task (Experiment 2). RQ2 asked whether native speakers of typologically different languages (i.e., Arabic as a verb-framed language vs. English as a satellite-framed language) produce and comprehend motion events in different ways. This was answered by the verbal experiment of the Video Description Task (Experiment 3). RQ3 asked whether language-specific motion event verbalization patterns had an influence on the conceptual event representation of the speakers of the two languages. This was examined in the two non-verbal experiments: the Similarity Judgment Task (Experiment 4) and the Verbal Interference Similarity Judgment Task (Experiment 5) The results of the first two tasks: the Frog Story (Experiment 1) and the Acceptability Judgment Task (Experiment 2), showed that although prototypical verb-framing is one of the most frequent patterns for motion lexicalization in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), numerous other lexicalization patterns are available to describe motion. The overall results of the video description task (Experiment 3) showed that while manner was highly encoded in the descriptions of the bilinguals in an English context, it was expressed significantly less by the bilinguals in an Arabic context. Bilinguals in the Arabic context group had moderately deviated from their L1 lexicalization patterns towards those of the L2. This supports the results obtained from their categorizations of motion events in the triad matching task (Experiment 4). The results of this task showed that as predicted from cross-linguistic differences in motion encoding, the participants functioning in an Arabic testing context preferred to match events on the basis of path to a greater extent than participants in the English context. In the fifth task (Experiment 5), when a different group of participants experienced verbal interference in English, their categorization behaviour was similar to that predicted for Arabic (more path saliency), and when the language of interference was switched to Arabic, their categorization became similar to that predicted for English (more manner saliency). The overall results of these tasks have implications in the fields of cognitive linguistics, linguistic relativity, linguistic typology, second language acquisition, and motion-event experimentation.