Socioculturally Mediated Responses to Environment Shaping Universals and Diversity in Spatial Language

Bill Palmer, Alice Rose Gaby, Jonathon Thomas Stephen Lum, Jonathan Schlossberg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperOtherpeer-review


This paper reports on an empirical experiment-based study testing the extent to which systems of linguistic spatial reference correlate with aspects of the physical environment in which a language community lives. We investigated linguistic spatial behaviour in two unrelated languages in both similar and contrasting locations, ranging from atoll islands to urban environments, using standardised tests whose results were subject to quantitative analysis. Our findings reveal significant variation in spatial referential strategy preference in the two languages. Some preferences correlated with environment (e.g. island vs. urban). However, others correlated with degree and nature of interaction with environment, and others with linguistic resources available to speakers. The findings demonstrate that spatial behaviour reflects a complex interplay of responses to environment; sociocultural interaction with environment; and speakers’ linguistic repertoire.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of Workshops and Posters at the 13th International Conference on Spatial Information Theory (COSIT 2017)
Subtitle of host publicationLecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography
EditorsP Fogliaroni, A Bellatore, E Clementini
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2017

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography

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