Non-actual motion: phenomenological analysis and linguistic evidence

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Sentences with motion verbs describing static situations have been seen as evidence that language and cognition are geared toward dynamism and change (Talmy in Toward a cognitive semantics, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2000; Langacker in Concept, image, and symbol: the cognitive basis of grammar, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin and New York, 1990). Different concepts have been used in the literature, e.g., fictive motion, subjective motion and abstract motion to denote this. Based on phenomenological analysis, we reinterpret such concepts as reflecting different motivations for the use of such constructions (Blomberg and Zlatev in Phenom Cogn Sci 13(3):395-418, 2014). To highlight the multifaceted character of the phenomenon, we propose the concept non-actual motion (NAM), which we argue is more compatible with the situated cognition approach than explanations such as "mental simulation" (e.g., Matlock in Studies in linguistic motivation, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, 2004). We investigate the expression of NAM by means of a picture-based elicitation task with speakers of Swedish, French and Thai. Pictures represented figures that either afford human motion or not (±afford); crossed with this, the figure extended either across the picture from a third-person perspective (3 pp) or from a first-person perspective (1 pp). All picture types elicited NAM-sentences with the combination [+afford, 1 pp] producing most NAM-sentences in all three languages. NAM-descriptions also conformed to language-specific patterns for the expression of actual motion. We conclude that NAM shows interaction between pre-linguistic motivations and language-specific conventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S153-S157
JournalCognitive Processing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Neurosciences


  • Fictive motion
  • Non-actual motion
  • Mental simulation
  • Phenomenology
  • Linguistic conventions


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