The Role of Grammatical Aspect in the Dynamics of Spatial Descriptions

  • Sarah Anderson
  • Teenie Matlock
  • Michael Spivey
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6222)


What role does grammatical aspect play in the time course of understanding spatial language, in particular motion events? Although processing differences between past progressive (was walking) and simple past (walked) aspect suggest differences in prominence of certain semantic properties, details about the temporal dynamics of aspect processing have been largely ignored. The current work uses mouse-tracking [1] to explore spatial differences in motor output response to contextual descriptions and aspectual forms. Participants heard descriptions of terrain (difficult or easy) and motion events described with either the past progressive or simple past aspectual form while placing a character into a scene to match this description. Overall, terrain descriptions modulated responses to past progressive more than to simple past in the region of the screen corresponding to the path. These results, which suggest that perceptual simulation plays a role in the interpretation of grammatical form, provide new insights into the understanding of spatial descriptions that include motion.


Spatial language Motion verbs Event understanding Mouse-tracking embodied cognition 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Anderson
    • 1
  • Teenie Matlock
    • 2
  • Michael Spivey
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCornell UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Cognitive and Information SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaMerced

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