Naming motion events in Spanish and English

Paula Cifuentes-Férez*, Dedre Gentner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This research asked whether speakers are influenced by systematic semantic patterns in their language in forming new word meanings. We used the novel word mapping technique (Nagy and Gentner 1990) to test whether English and Spanish speakers would show effects of their differing semantic systems in inferring the meanings of novel motion verbs. We also tested for any language-specific effects in inferring novel nouns. Participants were given short passages containing either a novel noun or a novel motion verb, and were asked to infer the meaning of the novel word. The passages provided information about both the path and the manner of a novel motion event. Consistent with the semantic patterns in the respective languages, English speakers were more likely to infer a manner interpretation than a path interpretation and Spanish speakers showed the reverse pattern. Language-specific effects were not found for the meanings inferred for novel nouns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-462
Number of pages20
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006


  • Cross-linguistic semantic patterns
  • Motion verbs
  • Novel word mapping
  • Relational relativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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