Spatio-temporal Frames and Chinese Word Order–A Cognitive-Functional Analysis Based on The Containment Schema

Author: Anna Morbiato (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy and The University of Sydney, Australia)
Speaker: Anna Morbiato
Topic: Language and Spatiotemporal Frames
The GLOCAL CALA 2022 General Session


To what extent do conceptual schemas underlying temporal language correspond to those of spatial language? And how do temporal and spatial expressions interact with other elements in the sentence? This paper addresses this question with a focus on Modern Standard Chinese (and other East Asian languages), where word order patterns and constructions are motivated by factors connected not only to semantics, syntax, and pragmatics, but also to the conceptual/cognitive domain. This holds especially for the order of spatio-temporal expressions. Based on systematic analysis of corpus data, the study shows how temporal and spatial expressions interact in very specific ways with predicative expressions, in line with the iconic hierarchies of temporal sequence and temporal/spatial scope. Specifically, it looks into the notions of “sequence”, “frame”, and “scope”, and how these are connected to the relative order of temporal and spatial expressions. While in languages like English or Romance containment is encoded through other means (e.g. prepositions or circumlocutions), Chinese sets aside a structural position, i.e. the preverbal position, and a relational structural pattern, i.e. the container-before-contained or frame-before-part, which inherently encode spatio-temporal containment. The study proposes an integrated perspective, accounting both for the cognitive and the socio-cultural motivations underlying such word order regularities.

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Keywords: Spatial and temporal frames; frame-part; containment; cognitive-functional principles; word order; corpus data; Modern Standard Chinese