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Going places in Dutch and mandarin Chinese: conceptualising the path of motion cross-linguistically


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We study to what extent linguistic differences in grammatical aspect systems and verb lexicalisation patterns of Dutch and mandarin Chinese affect how speakers conceptualise the path of motion in motion events, using description and memory tasks. We hypothesised that speakers of the two languages would show different preferences towards the selection of endpoint-, trajectory- or location-information in Endpoint-oriented (not reached) events, whilst showing a similar bias towards encoding endpoints in Endpoint-reached events. Our findings show that (1) groups did not differ in endpoint encoding and memory for both event types; (2) Dutch speakers conceptualised Endpoint-oriented motion focusing on the trajectory, whereas Chinese speakers focused on the location of the moving entity. In addition, we report detailed linguistic patterns of how grammatical aspect, verb semantics and adjuncts containing path-information are combined in the two languages. Results are discussed in relation to typologies of motion expression and event cognition theory.
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Language, Cognition and Neuroscience
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Going places in Dutch and mandarin Chinese:
conceptualising the path of motion cross-
Yiyun Liao, Monique Flecken, Katinka Dijkstra & Rolf A. Zwaan
To cite this article: Yiyun Liao, Monique Flecken, Katinka Dijkstra & Rolf A. Zwaan (2019): Going
places in Dutch and mandarin Chinese: conceptualising the path of motion cross-linguistically,
Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1080/23273798.2019.1676455
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© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa
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Going places in Dutch and mandarin Chinese: conceptualising the path of motion
Yiyun Liao
, Monique Flecken
, Katinka Dijkstra
and Rolf A. Zwaan
Department of Psychology, Education and Child Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands;
Neurobiology of
Language Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, the Netherlands;
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and
Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
We study to what extent linguistic dierences in grammatical aspect systems and verb lexicalisation
patterns of Dutch and mandarin Chinese aect how speakers conceptualise the path of motion in
motion events, using description and memory tasks. We hypothesised that speakers of the two
languages would show dierent preferences towards the selection of endpoint-, trajectory- or
location-information in Endpoint-oriented (not reached) events, whilst showing a similar bias
towards encoding endpoints in Endpoint-reached events. Our ndings show that (1) groups did
not dier in endpoint encoding and memory for both event types; (2) Dutch speakers
conceptualised Endpoint-oriented motion focusing on the trajectory, whereas Chinese speakers
focused on the location of the moving entity. In addition, we report detailed linguistic patterns
of how grammatical aspect, verb semantics and adjuncts containing path-information are
combined in the two languages. Results are discussed in relation to typologies of motion
expression and event cognition theory.
Received 5 October 2018
Accepted 24 September 2019
Motion events; cross-
linguistic analysis; the path of
motion; grammatical aspect;
verb lexicalisation patterns
1. Introduction
Motion through space is one of our most fundamental
bodily and perceptual experiences. A motion event is a
complex construct which consists of people, objects,
spatial information, and temporal change. Take the fol-
lowing scenario as an example: Being late for work, you
run out of the house, manoeuvre through the people on
the street, dash towards your working place, and eventually
rush into your oce. This motion event contains the fol-
lowing components: a gure (i.e. a moving person or
object; e.g. you), a path of motion (i.e. Source, Trajectory,
Location, Endpoint; e.g. out of,through,on,into), a
ground (an object that functions as a reference point
for the path of motion, e.g. the house,the people,the
street,your oce), a manner of motion (specic features
of the gures motion, such as gait, speed, etc.; e.g. to
jump,to run,to manoeuvre,to dash; Talmy, 1985;2000),
and the temporal contour of motion (whether the
motion is ongoing or has ceased, marked verbally; e.g.
the ing or ed form of jumping,jumped; Comrie, 1976;
Smith, 1991). In addition, any clause in the story above
can be classied as, either a one-state situation/activity
that does not involve fundamental qualitative change
(e.g. manoeuvre through the people on the street), or a
two-state situation (accomplishment or achievement)
that involves a change of location (also called a bound-
ary-crossing event: rush into the oce) (Croft, 2012;
Klein, 1994; Vendler, 1967). How we conceptualise the
dierent motion components in motion events of
dierent types and articulate them in various languages
is an intriguing question that has been explored exten-
sively by researchers from the elds of psychology and
linguistics (Beavers, Levin, & Tham, 2010; De Knop &
Gallez, 2011; Filippo-Enrico, 2008; Ibarretxe-Antuñano,
2004; Ji, Hendriks, & Hickmann, 2011; Ochsenbauer &
Hickmann, 2010; Slobin, 1996,2004,2008; Talmy, 1985,
In this study, we are particularly interested in one of
those components, i.e. the path of motion. We ask to
what extent, and how, cross-linguistic dierences in
grammar (grammatical aspect) and semantics (verb lexi-
calisation patterns) inuence how speakers conceptual-
ise and describe the path of motion in a motion event.
The path of motion is a complex concept that contains
more than one element, i.e. it consists of the Source, Tra-
jectory and Endpoint of motion (FROM xx, VIA xx, TO xx;
Jackendo,1983). In a broader sense, the Location of
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CONTACT Yiyun Liao
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motion (AT xx) also belongs to the path of motion
(Talmy, 2000). The path of motion represents the core
schemaof a motion event (Talmy, 2000), and it has
been reported that endpoints in boundary-crossing
events, events in which a spatial endpoint is reached
by an entity in motion, e.g. a car entering a garage, are
universally salient and prioritised over other types of
path information in motion encoding (in particular, the
source; Lakusta & Landau, 2005; Papafragou, 2010;
Regier & Zheng, 2007; Stefanowitsch & Rohlde, 2004).
This goal-biasis in line with Event Segmentation
theory (Zacks, Speer, Swallow, Braver, & Reynolds,
2007), which proposes that people perceive event
boundaries when change in an event accumulates, as
with a change of location when an endpoint is reached
in a boundary-crossing event. Event boundaries are an
important anchoring point for peoples representations
of events, and they are likely to be part of what people
consider a reportableevent when asked to describe
events (e.g. Gerwien & Stutterheim, 2018). Nevertheless,
cross-linguistic dierences have been reported in
relation to the encoding of the path of motion, and end-
points specically. For example, speakers of languages
from dierent typological families, showing variation in
whether the path of motion is typically described in
the verb root (verb-framed languages, e.g. the path
verb saliόexited- in the Spanish sentence la botella
saliόde la cueva otando the ball exited the cave
oating), or outside of the verb in satellites (satellite-
framed languages, e.g. verb particles or prexes; the par-
ticle out in the English sentence a boy is walking out of a
house; Talmy, 2000), distribute their attention dierently
when viewing and describing boundary-crossing events
(Papafragou, Hulbert, & Trueswell, 2008), and they also
memorise motion events in a distinct way (Gennari,
Sloman, Malt, & Fitch, 2002).
Complementary to Talmys typology, Carroll, Weimar,
Flecken, Lambert, and von Stutterheim (2012) and
Flecken, Carroll, Weimar, and Von Stutterheim (2015)
proposed that speakers of verb-framed vs satellite-
framed languages dier in their conceptualisation of
the path of motion, beyond how endpoints are
encoded: They observed that, in verb-framed languages,
when stimuli depicted motion only oriented towards an
endpoint (critically, endpoints that were not actually
reached), speakers (of French, in this case) construed
the motion events by focusing on the location of the
entity in motion (a woman walks on the road). They
argued that the spatial concepts to conceptualise
motion paths in such languages are in fact derived
from the entity in motion; this is evidenced through
the abundance of path verbs that exist that say some-
thing about the orientation of the entity in space, and
its proximity and distance towards a spatial endpoint
(e.g. the French path verbs se diriger vers to head
towards,sapprocher to approach,savancer vers to
approach towards). When there is no evident endpoint
in an event, speakers quite frequently use manner
verbs, while maintaining the focus on the entity.
Hence, the motion event is conceptualised as a property
of the moving entity, rather than as motion directed
along a path, towards a potential endpoint. Speakers of
satellite-framed languages, on the other hand, typically
construe motion events with a focus on features of the
ground, combining manner verbs with adjuncts or par-
ticles describing endpoints (e.g. to a building,into a build-
ing) or trajectory-information (e.g. along the river,down
the street), rather than locations (e.g. on the street).
In addition, research has studied cross-linguistic dier-
ences in the conceptualisation of motion paths in
relation to grammatical aspect. It was found that for
motion events that show orientation towards an end-
point that is not reached, speakers of languages with
grammaticalized markers of imperfective or progressive
aspect (Modern Standard Arabic, English, Russian; e.g.
-ing in English) tended to focus on the ongoing phase,
hence, the trajectory (e.g. a person walking along a
road) of a motion event, thereby defocusing the poten-
tial endpoint of the event. On the other hand, speakers of
languages (e.g. Dutch and German) that lack progressive
aspect preferred to take a holistic view on an event, with
a higher likelihood of including the events endpoint in a
description (e.g. a woman walking to a house). For
boundary-crossing events (from now on referred to as
Endpoint-reached events), speakers encoded endpoints
regardless of language background (Athanasopoulos &
Bylund, 2013; von Stutterheim, Andermann, Carroll,
Flecken, & Schmiedtová, 2012).
There is one recent study that takes into account
these two types of typological features and studies
both Endpoint-oriented and Endpoint-reached motion
events (Georgakopoulos, Härtl, & Sioupi, 2019). They
compared three languages, English, German, and
Greek, in which English and German are both satellite-
framed languages, but which are not in the same
group of aspectual/non-aspectual languages (English is
an aspectual language, German does not have gramma-
tical markers to express aspect). English and Greek are
both aspectual languages but not in the same group of
satellite-/verb-framed languages (English is satellite-
framed, Greek is verb-framed). Their analysis of motion
conceptualisation for Endpoint-oriented events reports
a similarly frequent encoding of endpoints in German
compared to English, whereas both German and
English speakers mentioned endpoints signicantly
more often than Greek speakers (in total 94 endpoint
expressions in Endpoint-oriented events: German N= 42;
English N= 39; Greek N= 13). Hence, Georgakopoulos
et al. (2019) speculate that verb lexicalisation patterns
have a stronger impact on speakers motion conceptual-
isation than grammatical aspect, and that speakers of
satellite-framed languages are more likely to conceptual-
ise motion events in terms of their endpoint than speak-
ers of verb-framed languages. This study underlines the
importance and necessity of combining the two typolo-
gical features, i.e. verb lexicalisation patterns and aspec-
tual systems, in a cross-linguistic comparison of motion
event conceptualisation. This is the approach that we
follow in the present study.
Here, we study how speakers of Dutch and Mandarin
Chinese, languages that dier in terms of verb lexicalisa-
tion patterns as well as grammatical aspect, conceptual-
ise the path of motion in both Endpoint-reached and
Endpoint-oriented (not-reached) events. Concerning
verb semantics, Dutch is a typical satellite-framed
language, whereas Chinese is often characterised as
sharing features of a satellite-framed and a verb-
framed language (Beavers et al., 2010; Ji & Hohenstein,
2017; see detailed description below). Regarding
aspect, Chinese is an aspectual language, in which
markers of both the progressive as well as the perfective
aspect are frequently used (Klein, Li, & Hendriks, 2000;Li
& Thompson, 1981; Xiao & McEnery, 2004). Dutch
encodes progressive aspect to some extent as well,
though it is not considered to be an aspectual language
(Flecken, 2011). We are thus comparing languages that
dier typologically, in complex ways, making it an inter-
esting test case for the study of motion conceptualis-
ation. We study (1) how the path of motion is
conceptualised in language production, i.e. what
element of the path of motion in a visually depicted
event do people select for verbalisation? That is, do
they refer to the (potential) Endpoint, Trajectory or
Location, as shown in videos of Endpoint-reached and
Endpoint-oriented events? During conceptualisation
speakers construct a so-called messageof the event,
which contains the core content of what they are
going to say (before the retrieval of the actual words);
at this stage the process of information selection
happens, involving the selection of the component(s)
of the path of motion that the utterance is centred on
(Levelt, 1989). We also analyse (2) how the path of
motion is described, in terms of the linguistic means
used: what verbs and adjunct types are used and how
are they combined in descriptions of events of the two
types? In addition, to specically investigate the relation
between verb semantics, aspect and endpoint conceptu-
alisation, we analyse (3) to what extent the available
aspectual markers in Chinese are combined with
dierent verb types (manner verbs, path verbs, serial
verb constructions, see below) when speakers choose
to mention endpoints. Besides their language pro-
duction patterns, we are interested in participants
memory of the endpoints of motion events. As another
window on potential endpoint encoding dierences
across the two languages, we administered a surprise
post-verbalisation event memory task, in which partici-
pants were tested on their memory representation of
the endpoints in Endpoint-oriented events.
We hypothesise, rst of all for Endpoint-reached
events, that speakers of both languages will most fre-
quently select the endpoint for verbalisation, given the
saliency of goals and boundaries that are reached or
crossed (Athanasopoulos & Bylund, 2013; Papafragou,
2010; von Stutterheim et al., 2012). Second of all, for End-
point-oriented events, Chinese and Dutch speakers may
show dierences in the frequency of endpoint mention-
ing, given the dierences in the aspectual systems and in
verb lexicalisation patterns: Dutch is hypothesised to
conceptualise events in which endpoints have to be
inferred as more goal-oriented than Chinese speakers.
Moreover, Chinese and Dutch speakers will show dier-
ences in terms of the frequency of selection of trajectory
vs location information for motion construal, as Dutch is
a typical satellite-framed language, whereas Chinese
exhibits features of a verb-framed language. We hypoth-
esise that Dutch speakers, using manner verbs predomi-
nantly, focus more on features of the trajectory traced,
compared to Chinese speakers, who in turn will more
often concentrate on the location of the moving entity
in space. Regarding the second question, we expect
that, in Endpoint-reached events, speakers of Dutch
and speakers of Chinese will adopt dierent ways of
describing endpoints: Chinese predominantly uses
serial verb constructions (see details in section 2),
whereas path verbs and manner verbs plus satellites
are possible options. Dutch, on the other hand, predomi-
nantly uses satellites to describe endpoints (in combi-
nation with manner verbs). As for Endpoint-oriented
events, Dutch will again follow a typical satellite-
framed pattern, in which manner verbs are combined
with satellites encoding path information. It is unclear
what patterns Chinese will exhibit exactly because no
previous studies have systematically investigated the
conceptualisation of Endpoint-oriented events in
Chinese. We can expect satellite-framed patterns with
manner verbs and path satellites, as well as serial verb
constructions, or single path verbs. Concerning the use
of aspect in Chinese endpoint descriptions, we expect
the perfective aspectual marker le to frequently be com-
bined with path verbs and serial verb constructions (see
Li & Thompson, 1981). Our line of reasoning is that path
verbs and serial verb constructions often contain infor-
mation on endpoints of motion, and a combination
with the perfective aspect highlights and asserts the
completion of the action in this case the act of
motion -, and with that the realization of the boundary
crossing (endpoint reached) in these events (see Klein
et al., 2000). Furthermore, we expect the progressive
aspect (zai; Xiao & McEnery, 2004)to be combined with
manner verbs and satellite constructions, predominantly,
highlighting the ongoingness of an activity (manner
verbs highlight the manner of action, and do not make
explicit reference to endpoints). However, we do not
exclude the possibility that perfective aspect is used
with manner verbs (see e.g. the use of the perfective le
to describe one-state situations in Klein et al., 2000),
and that progressive aspect is used with path verbs
(e.g. zai guo malu PROG cross street) and serial verb
constructions (e.g. zai chao [..]zou-qu PROG towards
[..] walk-go). Meanwhile, we should be aware of the
fact that although Chinese is classied as an aspectual
language, both aspect markers under investigation (per-
fective le and progressive zai) are not obligatory and
aspectual meaning can also be obtained through
context (see details in section 2).
Regarding the memory task: Previous studies have
reported that the use of language in a verbal event
encoding task can inuence subsequent memory of
the events (Athanasopoulos & Bylund, 2013; Papafragou
& Selimis, 2010). Specically, overt verbal encoding
requires attention to the event elements to be men-
tioned, which in turn enhances the likelihood that this
information is committed to a memory representation
of the event. Therefore, we expect participants
memory of endpoints to reect their verbalisation pat-
terns, that is, if Dutch participants displayed more men-
tions of the endpoints in endpoint-oriented events
than Chinese participants, they should show enhanced
memory of endpoints, and/or speeded judgements on
this task (reected in RTs).
2. Comparing Dutch and mandarin Chinese
2.1. Verb lexicalisation patterns
Following Talmys typology, Dutch is a typical satellite-
framed language with a rich vocabulary of manner verbs.
The manner of motion is usually conveyed through the
verb root while the path of motion is expressed outside
of the verb root, through particles or prepositions (e.g.
uitlopen walk out of,rijden naar drive to). Path verbs
(e.g. arriveren arrive,oversteken cross) are also used to
express the path of motion, but the language lacks a
wide variety of those (Slobin, 2004; Talmy, 2000).
Chinese presents a more complex case. It makes use
of serial verb constructions in which two or more verbs
appear together in a simple sentence, for example, the
verbal construction zou-guo in ta zou-guo gongyuan
he is walking across a park. The literal translation of
zou-guo in this sentence is walk-crossin English. The
rst element zou is a manner verb that means
walkingand the second element guo can be used as
a path verb referring to the trajectory of the motion in
isolation. A central question in the abundant discussions
concerning Chinese in this typology is the status of the
second element in a serial verb construction, i.e. it is
debated whether it is the main verb or just a verb comp-
lement (Chen & Guo, 2009; Kan, 2010; Lamarre, 2005; Liu,
2014; Shen, 2003; Slobin, 2004; Tai, 2003; Tai & Su, 2013;
Talmy, 2000; Xu, 2013). Talmy considered the second
element to be a verb complement and classied
Chinese as a typical satellite-framed language (see
similar opinion in Lamarre, 2005; Liu, 2014; Shen, 2003).
Tai (2003) and Tai and Su (2013), on the other hand, con-
sidered the second element, that often represents the
resultof an action, as the main verb and claimed that
Chinese is a verb-framed language. Slobin (2004),
however, proposed that in serial verb languages, the
manner verb is on a par with the (second) directional
verb in semantic and syntactic prominence, and there-
fore Chinese should belong to a third language type:
an equipollently-framed language (hence an E-language)
(see similar opinion in Chen & Guo, 2009; Kan, 2010; Xu,
2013). According to Slobin (2004), E-languages express
both manner and path in equipollentelements that
are equal in formal linguistic terms and signicance. It
is in addition worth mentioning that Chinese also
makes use of the typical satellite-framed pattern with
manner verbs followed by directional prepositions, for
example, zou-xiang walk-towardsin motion event
descriptions. In addition, it also uses single path verbs
to express direction of motion (e.g. shang ascend,xia
descend,qian-jin approach) and the number of path
verbs in Chinese is larger than in a typical satellite-
framed language, such as English (Xu, 2013). Ji et al.
(2011) compared English and Chinese speakers in a
caused motion event description task (e.g. a boy
pushing a suitcase down the hill), and they discovered
that in Chinese, serial verb constructions (e.g. tui-shang
pull-ascend,gun-xia roll-descend) were used most
often (70%), while single path verbs (e.g. shang
ascend,guo cross,jin enter) were used around
30% of the time. Although satellite-framed patterns are
also an option to express the direction of motion in
caused motion events (e.g. ba xiangzi tui-xiang
dongxue BA suitcase push-towards cave), they were
not found in this description task. This is likely caused
by the fact that the videos used in that study all showed
boundary-crossing events, in which goals are prominent
and other elements of the path of motion less so. Inter-
estingly, the paper reports that Chinese exhibits both sat-
ellite- (e.g. English) and verb-framing (e.g. French)
properties, regardless of whether the second element
in the verb compound was identied as a verb or a sat-
ellite. Specically, its satellite properties were mainly
shown in the frequently used BA construction (42%)
combined with main verbs encoding manner of action
as in push(e.g. ba xiaoche tui-xia shanpo BA car
push-descend/down hill), just like in English (e.g. push
the car down the hill). Meanwhile, its verb-framing prop-
erties were visible from the fact that Path information
was frequently encoded in a single path verb (30%)
while manner components were encoded in a subordi-
nated ZHE clause (e.g. ta la zhe yi-liang yingerche guo
jie he pull ZHE (pulling) one pram cross street). This is
a pattern that can also be observed in, for example,
French, a typical verb-framed language (e.g. il traverse
la rue en tirant la poussette he is crossing the street
pulling the pram) (Hickmann & Hendriks, 2010).
Based on the observations discussed above, we adopt
the view in Ji et al. (2011) that this language is of a mixed
type, containing features of satellite-framed languages
and verb-framed languages (see similar views in Beavers
et al., 2010; Ji & Hohenstein, 2017; see also Shi & Wu,
2014, claiming that historically Chinese was a typical
verb-framed language which is now in the process of
transforming into a satellite-framed language).
2.2. The aspectual systems
The expression of grammatical aspect in Dutch and in
Chinese also exhibits cross-linguistic dierences.
Chinese has a progressive aspectual marker zai (e.g. ta
zai zou xiang tushuguan he is walking towards a
library) and a perfective aspectual marker le (e.g. ta
zou xiang le tushuguan he walked towards a library)
(Klein et al., 2000; Li & Thompson, 1981; Smith, 1991;
Xiao & McEnery, 2004). As a progressive aspectual
marker, zai is similar to the English progressive marker
-ing. They both oer us a viewpoint on the internal tem-
poral structure or contour of an event. Like a magnifying
glass or a spotlight, they allow us to focus on the inter-
mediate ongoing phases of a situation, leaving the
initial part and the nal point of the situation unspe-
cied. Conversely, as a perfective marker, le builds up
an external viewpoint that enables us to view the situ-
ation as a whole or as a completed event from an
outside perspective; thus, the internal structure of the
situation is defocused. The progressive marker zai can
be used to describe goal-oriented/directed motion (as
in ta zai zou xiang tushuguan he is walking towards a
library). The perfective le can be used to describe goal-
reached motion (as in ta zou-jin le tushuguan he
walked into a library). However, it should be noted
that unlike English, in which tense and aspect are obliga-
torily marked on the verb, Chinese is more exible in
using the available aspectual markers. Temporal infor-
mation can often be contextually inferred (e.g. the
interpretation of the following example sentence
without any aspectual markers ta zou xiang tushuguan
he walks towards a libraryis progressive by default;
the sentence ta zou-jin tushuguan he walks into a
libraryis perfective by default; see Bohnemeyer &
Swift, 2004 for an explanation of the relation between
default aspect and the telicity of a predicate). Hence,
the aspectual markers are not obligatorily used in
Chinese. In Dutch, the aan het-construction is used to
express progressive aspect (Flecken, 2011). However, it
is rarely used to express directed motion (see *Oscar is
naar de bibliotheek aan het lopen he is walking
towards the library). There is no designated grammatical
marker of perfective aspect in Dutch.
To summarise our characterisation, Chinese exhibits
features of both satellite-framed and verb-framed
languages. Dutch, on the other hand, is a typical satel-
lite-framed language. In terms of aspect, Chinese is an
aspectual language, with markers encoding an aspectual
opposition (the progressive zai and the perfective le),
whereas Dutch mainly encodes progressive aspect for
activities that are atelic (e.g. Max is aan het wandelen
Max is taking a stroll). Considering these dierences,
Dutch and Chinese provide an intriguing test case for
shedding light on the cross-linguistic comparison of
the path information encoding.
3. Experiment
3.1. Method
The experiment consisted of three parts and was con-
ducted in the Erasmus Behavioural Lab, Erasmus Univer-
sity Rotterdam. Participants rst performed an event
description task without being informed in advance of
the subsequent memory task. Next, they completed a
surprise memory task, which was presented on the
screen. Finally, the participants completed a linguistic-
background questionnaire on paper.
3.2. Participants
Sixty-one participants (30 native speakers of Dutch and
31 native speakers of Chinese) participated in the exper-
iment. Each participant described 20 video clips in one
sentence and thus each participant created 20 sen-
tences. The participants of the two language groups
were from educational backgrounds of college level or
above (with one exception in the Chinese group who
was a high school student). The Dutch participants
were rst or second-year bachelor students from the
Department of Psychology, Education, and Child
Studies at the Erasmus University Rotterdam with a
mean age of 19.63 (Range 1824 years old; SD = 1.45
years, 28 females and 2 males). They were all born in
the Netherlands and were Dutch native speakers.
Chinese participants were students (high school, bache-
lors, masters or Ph.D. level) in the Netherlands with a
mean age of 24.52 (Range 1744 years old; SD = 4.51
years old; 24 females and 7 males). They were all born
in China and were native mandarin Chinese speakers.
The average time they had been residing in the Nether-
lands was 23.1 months (Range 196 months; SD = 28.60
months). The majority of the Chinese participants did
not speak any Dutch (29 out of 31). Two Chinese partici-
pants had learned Dutch for an average duration of 3.25
years, but they did not speak Dutch with their family or
friends. Participants from both language groups had
learned English more than 10 years before the time of
testing (Chinese: Range 818 years, M= 14.4 years, SD
= 2.30 years; Dutch: Range 519 years, M= 10.6 years,
SD = 3.28 years). This, however, is inevitable since
English is used in the school curriculum in both
countries. Most of the participants spoke English at
school. Instead, they used their native languages with
their family and friends, and to think, express emotion,
talk to themselves and dream (self-report). Overall, par-
ticipants from both language groups were representa-
tive of typical speakers of their native languages. All
experimental instructions were provided in writing, in
the participants native language, in order to provide a
monolingual experimental environment. All participants
received research credits or a monetary reward for
their participation. Event description data from one
Dutch participant and one Chinese participant were
excluded due to over 30% incomplete recordings (tech-
nical failures), leaving a nal sample of 29 Dutch and 30
Chinese participants in the analyses of the linguistic data.
3.3. Materials
The experiment was programmed using the E-Prime 2.0
software (Psychology Software Tools, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA,
USA). The items of the event description task consisted of
40 video clips that were lmed and edited by von Stut-
terheim and colleagues at Heidelberg University. The
items were used in similar studies, such as Athanasopou-
los & Bylund, 2013; von Stutterheim et al., 2012; and
Flecken, Carroll, & von Stutterheim, 2014. The video
clips showed real-life events, each of 6 s in length.
There was a blue screen with a centred xation cross in
between each item. Participants were instructed that
they could start to describe each video clip when they
had recognised what was happeningin the video.
Descriptions were recorded with an external voice recor-
der. The blue screen between each video was shown for
8 s, leaving ample time for participants to verbalise their
description. The stimulus set contained 20 motion events
that can be classied into two types (10 each):
Endpoint-oriented (not reached) events: motion events
that displayed an entity in motion (a vehicle or person)
along a specic trajectory in the direction of a visible
Endpoint location (e.g. a village, church, playground),
which was crucially not reached by the end of the 6 s
video clip (see an example of this event in Figure 1).
Endpoint-reached events: motion events in which the
entity in motion was depicted as reaching a goal or des-
tination (e.g. walking into a church; driving into a garage;
see an example of this event in Figure 2).
In addition, there were 20 llers that were not motion
events; the videos showed either static scenes (e.g. a
bicycle parked at a lamppost; a dog sitting and panting
on the grass) or causative event scenes (e.g. a woman
knitting a scarf; a man folding a paper airplane).
Materials for the memory test consisted of pictures of
the 10 Endpoint-oriented motion events and 6 llers. All
pictures were screenshots from the previously seen
videos. Critical pictures were screenshots taken from
the 10 Endpoint-oriented video clips. The pictures were
manipulated, such that the visible Endpoints of 6 of
the items were removed using Photoshop, leaving a
natural scene (see Figure 3). The other 4 items were
left unchanged. The 6 llers were screenshots from
ller videos, amongst which 3 had certain objects
removed that had appeared in the videos previously
(e.g. a bicycle in the static scene of it being parked at a
lamp post, cosmetics in a video of a woman putting on
make-up); the other 3 were left unchanged. The order
of the videos in the elicitation task and the pictures in
the memory task were randomised across participants.
This was done to cancel out potential distance eects.
3.4. Procedure
For the event description task participants were seated in
front of a computer in a quiet room and were asked to
read the following instructions on the screen (von Stut-
terheim et al., 2012):
You will see a set of 40 video clips showing everyday
events that are not in any way connected to each
other. Each clip lasts 6 seconds. Before each clip starts,
a blue screen with a white xation cross will appear.
Please focus on this xation cross. Your task is to tell
what is happeningin each video clip, using a complete
sentence. You may begin to speak as soon as you recog-
nize what is happening in the clip. It is not necessary to
describe the video clips in detail (e.g.,. the sky is blue).
Please focus on the event that is happening only.
After reading the instructions, participants were told to
stay close to the recorder that was placed in front of
them on the table. They could press the spacebar to
start the task if they did not have any further questions
for the experimenter. Their descriptions were recorded
with a recorder connected with E-prime. Recordings
Figure 1. Screenshot of an Endpoint-oriented motion event: a car driving on a road towards a village/houses.
Figure 2. Screenshot of an Endpoint-reached motion event: a man walking into a church.
were automatically saved as .wav les on the computer.
Each session took about 20 min. After the last video clip
had ended, participants saw a screen directly instructing
them on the memory task:
Now, you will see screenshots of some of the videos you
saw earlier. Please decide as quickly as you can whether
the picture shown on the screen is exactly the same as
what you saw in the video earlier. Press YES or NO on
the button box in front of you. Note: some of these
screenshots were directly taken from the previous
videos, but some are not. Please observe carefully and
make your judgment quickly.
Participants pressed the spacebar to start the experiment
if they did not have further questions. After making a
decision, the experiment proceeded to the next trial
immediately. Accuracy scores and reaction times were
logged for analyses. Each session took around 57 min.
After this part, participants lled in a language back-
ground questionnaire. The experimental procedure
took around 40 min in total. All the instructions were pre-
sented in the participantsnative language (Dutch or
4. Data coding
Both Dutch and Chinese recordings were transcribed by
native speakers. Incomplete or missing recordings of
sentences in both languages were coded as missing
values and excluded from our statistical analyses
(0.021% out of 1170 sentences in total, 0.006% in the
Dutch data and 0.015% in the Chinese data). This
resulted in a total of 573 data points in Dutch (287 in
the Endpoint-oriented event type, and 286 in the End-
point-reached event type) and 583 data points in
Chinese (289 in the Endpoint-oriented event type and
294 in the Endpoint-reached event type).
Data were coded following the coding scheme elabo-
rated below. For each coding category, its presence was
coded as 1, otherwise a 0was entered in the relevant
column (binary data coding). Both Chinese and Dutch
data were coded by a native speaker and a second
researcher, independent of one another. Points of dis-
agreement were discussed and in most cases resolved.
4.1. Path of motion (endpoint, trajectory, and
We rst coded Path information in the motion event
descriptions in both languages, distinguishing, rst of
all, utterances that included reference to an Endpoint
object (irrespective of whether the endpoint was
described as reached or not, e.g. the house mentioned
in into a house, the playground referred to in to(wards)
a playground), regardless of additional, other types of
path information mentioned in the same utterance
(e.g. walk [across the road]towards a car).
encoding Trajectory were sentences containing trajec-
tory information (and no endpoint information),
Figure 3. Example of an item in the memory task: Endpoint-oriented motion event with potential endpoint removed.
irrespective of whether in addition location information
was mentioned (e.g. over een weg [op het platteland]/
yan-zhe yi-tiao xiaolu [zai jiaowai]along a road [in the
country side]). Lastly the category Location-only
included references to a location as the only path
element (e.g. op een weg/zai lu shang on a road). In
our videos, there were no obvious source locations.
Hence, source information was not considered in the
current study. The coding scheme reects the dierences
in the viewpoints that people can take during conceptu-
alisation: a maximal, holistic viewpoint, including an
(inferred) Endpoint and potentially other path elements,
to a minimal viewpoint that only locates the entity in
motion in space. Examples of a maximal (holistic) view-
point in Dutch and in Chinese are hij loopt over een
weg op het platteland naar een kerk and zai jiao wai ta
yan-zhe yi-tiao xiaolu zou xiang yi-ge jiaotang, respect-
ively, he walks along a road in the countryside to a
church. Examples of a minimal viewpoint, only locating
the entity in motion in space, in Dutch and in Chinese are
hij loopt op straat and ta zou zai lu shang, respectively,
he walks on a road.
4.2. Verb-adjunct combinations
We then coded the types of verbs used and the combi-
nations of verb types and adjunct types, only considering
the proportion of sentences containing descriptions of
path of motion in both languages (0.87 vs 0.86:
Chinese (509/583) vs Dutch (491/573)). In Chinese, we
coded for three types of verbs, including path verbs,
manner verbs and serial verb constructions, whereas in
Dutch we coded the former two types. The path verbs
coded were those which were used independently as
predicates and which encoded path information in a
main clause. Examples of Chinese path verbs are jin
enter,guo cross,jing-guo pass-by,qian-jin
approach,shang ascend,dao arrive, etc. Examples
of Dutch path verbs are arriveren,arrive,oversteken
cross, etc. Manner verbs were the only verb in a main
clause, encoding the manner of a moving Figure, such
as the gait or the speed of motion. Examples of
manner verbs in both languages are kai/rijden drive,
zou/lopen walk,pao/rennen run, and pa/beklimmen
climb. A serial verb construction
is a special verbal
construction that exists in Chinese but not in Dutch.
Examples of such verbal constructions are kai-jin drive-
enter,kai-guo drive-pass,zou-jin walk-enter,zou-qu
walk-goand pa-shang climb-ascend. Taking all poss-
ible combinations into account, we coded the data
regarding the following categories: the combination of
manner verb with either Endpoint adjuncts, Location-
only adjuncts, or Trajectory adjuncts (MaEnd, MaLoc,
MaTra in gures), the combination of path verbs with
either Endpoint adjuncts, Location-only adjuncts, or Tra-
jectory adjuncts (PaEnd, PaLoc, PaTra in gures), and the
combination of serial verb constructions with either End-
point adjuncts, Location-only adjuncts, or Trajectory
adjuncts (SvcEnd, SvcLoc, SvcTra in gures).
4.3 Verb type-aspect combinations when
describing endpoints
In addition, we coded the aspect markers (progressive
and perfective) that occurred in the Chinese Endpoint
description data (total number of utterances containing
Endpoint: 378/583, 243 in the Endpoint-reached events
and 135 in the Endpoint-oriented events). We coded
zai in Chinese as the progressive, and le in Chinese as
the perfective. We were interested in the extent to
which the aspect markers were combined with the
dierent verb types in the Chinese Endpoint descrip-
tions. We thus counted the occurrence of manner
verbs with either the perfective marker or the progress-
ive marker (MaPerf, MaProg in gures), path verbs with
the perfective marker or the progressive marker
(PaPerf, PaProg in gures), and serial verb constructions
with either the perfective or the progressive (SvcPerf,
SvcProg in gures). We also counted the use of each
verb type when no aspect markers were used (MaOnly,
PaOnly, SvcOnly in gures).
5. Analysis and results
5.1. Conceptualising the path of motion
To test the eects of Language and Event type on the
encoding of each path element, we set up separate
mixed-eect binomial logistic regression models for
each Path type in R
(R Core Team, 2016) using the
glmer function implemented in the package lme4
(Bates, Mächler, Bolker, & Walker, 2015). We included
subjects and video clips (stimulus items) in our model
as random intercepts. Both Language and Event type
(xed factors) were sum coded. The dependent variable
in each of the models was the respective path element
mentioned yes (1) or no (0). Figure 4 shows the pro-
portion of occurrence of each type of path information
(Endpoint, Location-only, and Trajectory) in both
languages and for both event types (Endpoint:End-
point-oriented events: Chinese N= 135/289, Range 0.20
0.80 vs Dutch N= 130/287, Range 0.100.90, Endpoint-
reached events: Chinese N= 243/289, Range 0.501.00
vs Dutch N= 232/287, Range 0.501.00; Location-only:
Endpoint-oriented events: Chinese N= 63/289, Range
0.000.70 vs Dutch N= 15/287, Range 0.000.38,
Endpoint-reached events: Chinese N= 11/289, Range
0.000.29 vs Dutch N= 4/287, Range 0.000.10; Trajec-
tory:Endpoint-oriented events: Chinese N= 43/289,
Range 0.000.63 vs Dutch N= 86/287, Range 0.000.60;
Endpoint-reached events: Chinese N= 14/289, Range
0.000.20 vs Dutch N= 24/287, Range 0.000.30). See
Table 1 below for examples of each path component in
each language.
We found that the frequency of Endpoints was signi-
cantly dierent across event types, but not across
languages (Event type β=1.212, SE = 0.376, z=3.222,
p= .001; Language β= 0.054, SE = 0.132, z= 0.405, p
= .686). There was no interaction between the two
factors (Event type*Language β= 0.006, SE = 0.081, z=
0.079, p= .937). Thus, endpoints were mentioned more
frequently in Endpoint-reached events, than Endpoint-
oriented events, regardless of language, as hypothesised.
In terms of references to Location-only, there was a main
eect of Language (Language β= 0.803, SE = 0.262, z=
3.066, p< .01) and a main eect of Event type (β= 1.141,
SE =0.452, z= 2.522, p< .05). No interaction between
Language and Event type was found (β= 0.242, SE =
0.183, z= 1.326, p= .185). Dutch participants showed
lower frequency of mentioning Location-only information
than Chinese participants, as hypothesised. Moreover,
Location-only references were obtained less frequently
in Endpoint-reached events, than Endpoint-oriented
events. Regarding the mentioning of Trajectory infor-
mation, results show main eects of Language and
Event type (Language β=0.468, SE = 0.152, z=3.068,
p< .01; Event type β= 0.952, SE = 0.365, z= 2.610, p
< .01). The interaction was not signicant (β=0.108,
SE = 0.111, z=0.967, p= .334). Dutch speakers men-
tioned Trajectory information more frequently compared
to Chinese speakers; it was encoded less frequently when
participants described Endpoint-reached events than
when they described Endpoint-oriented events.
To shed light on the frequency of mentioning the
three path elements within each of the two languages,
we ran separate multinomial logistic regression models
via the mlogit package (Croissant, 2018) in R for each
Event type (xed factor) was dummy coded
and Path type was the dependent variable.
First, in
the Chinese data, there was a signicant eect of
Event type (χ
= 85.699, p< .001): In Endpoint-oriented
, Endpoints were mentioned signicantly more
often than both Location-only and Trajectory infor-
mation (Location-only vs Endpoint: Intercept β=0.762,
SE = 0.153, z=4.995, p< .001; Trajectory vs Endpoint:
Intercept β=1.144, SE = 0.175, z=6.534, p< .001,
respectively). In the Endpoint-reached events [see note
9], Chinese speakers also mentioned Endpoint signi-
cantly more often than both Location-only and Trajec-
tory, but the dierence was larger in this event type
than in Endpoint-oriented events (Location-only vs
Figure 4. Selection of Path components (Endpoint, Location-only and Trajectory) in Chinese and Dutch utterances for Endpoint-
oriented and Endpoint-reached events.
Table 1. Examples of path component descriptions in Chinese
and Dutch.
Chinese Dutch
Endpoint Liang-wei nvshi zou xiang yi-ge
two women walk towards a
Yi-liang che kai-jin cheku.
a car drive-enter garage
Twee vrouwen lopen naar
een huis.
two women walk to a
De auto rijdt de garage in.
the car drives the garage
Yi-liang baise kache kai zai
xiangcun daolu shang.
a white truck drive on village
Er rijdt een auto op de weg.
there drives a car on the
Trajectory Yi-liang che kai-guo le lumian.
a car drive-cross PERF road
Er etst een meisje over het
there cycles a girl along
the cycle path
Endpoint: Intercept β=3.095, SE = 0.308, z=10.041, p
< .001 and Trajectory vs Endpoint: Intercept β=2.854, SE
= 0.275, z=10.384, p< .001, respectively). In the Dutch
data, we also found a signicant eect of Event type (χ
= 71.283, p< .001). Similar to the Chinese group, speak-
ers of Dutch also mentioned Endpoints signicantly
more often than Location-only and Trajectory infor-
mation in both Endpoint-oriented events (Location-only
vs Endpoint: Intercept β=2.160, SE = 0.273, z=7.919,
p< .001; Trajectory vs Endpoint: Intercept β=0.413, SE
= 0.139, z=2.973, p< .01, respectively) and Endpoint-
reached events (Location-only vs Endpoint: Intercept β=
4.060, SE = 0.504, z=8.052, p< .001 and Trajectory vs
Endpoint: Intercept β=2.269, SE = 0.214, z=10.580,
p< .001, respectively). The dierences between the fre-
quency of mentioning Endpoints vs Trajectory and
Location-only information were larger in the latter com-
pared to the former event type.
5.2. Verb and adjunct types used
We again analysed the eects of Language and Event
type on the use of each verb type with binomial mixed
eect logistic regression models.
Subjects and video
clips (stimulus items) were included in each model as
random intercepts. Language and Event type were sum
coded. The dependent variable in each of the models
was the respective Verb type used (Manner verbs, Path
verbs), yes (1) or no (0). Serial verb constructions were
only used in Chinese and thus not compared cross-lin-
guistically. Figure 5 shows the verb types used in relation
to the two event types, in both languages, only consider-
ing sentences containing descriptions of path of motion
(Manner verbs:Endpoint-oriented events: Chinese N=
144/241, Range in proportion 0.001.00 vs Dutch N=
209/231, Range 0.561.00, Endpoint-reached events:
Chinese N= 38/268, Range 0.000.57 vs Dutch N= 204/
260, Range 0.201.00; Path verbs:Endpoint-oriented
events: Chinese N= 27/241, Range 0.000.83 vs Dutch
N= 21/231, Range 0.000.44, Endpoint-reached events:
Chinese N= 42/268, Range 0.000.56 vs Dutch N= 45/
260, Range 0.000.70; Serial verb constructions:End-
point-oriented events: Chinese N= 68/241, Range 0.00
0.86; Endpoint-reached events: Chinese N= 184/268,
Range 0.201.00).
For manner verbs, there was a signicant main eect
of Language (Language β=1.388, SE = 0.157, z=
8.862, p< .001) and Event type (β= 0.725, SE = 0.181,
z= 4.007, p<.001). The interaction was also signicant
(β= 0.415, SE = 0.085, z= 4.899, p< .001). Dutch speakers
used manner verbs signicantly more often than Chinese
speakers, especially so in Endpoint-reached events, com-
pared to Endpoint-oriented events. Moreover, speakers
of Chinese used manner verbs signicantly more often
to describe Endpoint-oriented events, than Endpoint-
reached events. Speakers of Dutch did not dier in
their use of manner verbs between event types. Regard-
ing the use of path verbs, there was no main eect of
Language (Language β= 0.084, SE = 0.186, z= 0.449, p
= .653), nor of Event type (β=0.300, SE = 0.257, z=
1.169, p= .243). The interaction was also not signicant
(β= 0.109, SE = 0.097, z= 1.124, p= .261). Speakers of the
two language groups did not dier in their use of path
Comparing patterns closely within each language,
two logistic regression models were set up.
First, in
the Chinese group, we analysed the dependent variable
verb typewith 3 levels: manner verb, path verb and
serial verb construction. We built a multinomial logistic
regression model to statistically test the eect of Event
type on the choice of verb type, and to discover the
typical patterns used in each event type for the
Chinese group. Event type was dummy coded. A signi-
cant eect of Event type was found (χ
= 123.620,
p< .001). Within Endpoint-reached events, Chinese
speakers used serial verb constructions more often
than both manner verbs and path verbs (serial verb con-
struction vs manner verb: Intercept β= 1.577, SE = 0.178, z
= 8.852, p< .001; serial verb construction vs path verb:
Intercept β= 1.454, SE = 0.169, z= 8.583, p< .001). There
was no dierence in the proportion of use of path
verbs and manner verbs (path verb vs manner verb: Inter-
cept β= 0.124, SE = 0.223, z= 0.555, p= .578). When
describing Endpoint-oriented events, Chinese speakers
were more likely to use manner verbs than the other
two types of verbs (path verb vs manner verb: Intercept
β=1.674, SE = 0.210, z=7.982, p< .001; serial verb
construction vs manner verb: Intercept β=0.750, SE =
0.147, z=5.099, p< .001). Moreover, serial verb con-
structions were used signicantly more often than path
verbs (serial verb constructions vs path verbs: Intercept β
= 0.924, SE = 0.228, z= 4.061, p< .001). The binomial
mixed-eect logistic regression model on Dutch data
contained the dependent variable (verb type) with two
levels (manner verb and path verb). Event type (xed
factor) was sum coded. Random eects included subjects
and video clips (stimulus items). There was no eect of
Event type on the choice of verb types among Dutch
speakers (Event type β=0.490, SE = 0.359, z=1.366,
p= .172). For both Endpoint-oriented events and End-
point-reached events, Dutch speakers were signicantly
more likely to use manner verbs than path verbs (End-
point-oriented:manner verb vs path verb Intercept β=
3.639, SE = 0.697, z= 5.220, p< .001; Endpoint-reached:
manner verb vs path verb Intercept β= 2.658, SE = 0.646,
z= 4.115, p< .001).
Binomial mixed-eect logistic regression models were
built for each verb and adjunct combination that existed
in the languages.
Language and Event type (xed
factors) were sum coded; the dependent variable in
each of the models was the respective combination
used, yes (1) or no (0). Subjects and video clips (stimulus
items) were included in each model as random inter-
cepts. Figures 6 and 7show the combinations of verb
and adjunct types found in descriptions in both
languages, in Endpoint-reached events and Endpoint-
oriented events, only considering sentences containing
descriptions of path of motion. Typical examples of
each verb and adjunct combination in each language
are given in Table 2.
In terms of the combination of manner verbs with
Endpoint adjuncts, there was a signicant main eect
of Language (Language β=1.171, SE = 0.166, z=
7.053, p< .001), but no eect of Event type (β= 0.052,
SE = 0.257, z= 0.202, p= .840). The interaction between
Language and Event type was signicant (β= 0.695, SE
= 0.091, z= 7.645, p< .001). Speakers of Dutch used
manner verbs with Endpoint adjuncts signicantly
more often than speakers of Chinese, especially so in
the Endpoint-reached events. For path verbs in combi-
nation with Endpoint adjuncts, there was no signicant
eect of Language (Language β= 0.064, SE = 0.204, z=
0.315, p= .753), nor Event type (β=0.613, SE = 0.320,
z=1.916, p= .055) and no interaction either (β=
0.085, SE = 0.119, z= 0.711, p= .477). Thus, speakers of
the two languages did not dier in their use of path
verbs combined with Endpoint adjuncts. Turning to
manner verbs in combination with Location-only
adjuncts, we found a signicant main eect of Language
(Language β= 0.762, SE = 0.274, z= 2.781, p< .01) and
Event type (β= 1.142, SE = 0.449, z= 2.542, p< .05). No
interaction eect was detected (β= 0.281, SE = 0.185, z
= 1.521, p= .128). Chinese speakers used manner verbs
plus Location-only adjuncts signicantly more often
Figure 5. Verb types used by Chinese and Dutch participants in all Path descriptions in Endpoint-oriented and Endpoint-reached
events: Manner verb, Path verb, Serial verb construction.
Figure 6. Verb and Path combinations used by Chinese and Dutch participants in encoding Path information in Endpoint-reached
events: Manner verb (Ma), Path verb (Pa), Serial verb construction (Svc); Endpoint (End), Location (Loc), Trajectory (Tra).
than Dutch speakers, and this combination was used
most frequently in Endpoint-oriented events. Location-
only was not combined with path verbs in either
language. Regarding the combination of manner verbs
with Trajectory adjuncts, there was a main eect of
Language (Language β=1.698, SE = 0.236, z=7.201,
p< .001) and also a main eect of Event type (β=
1.098, SE = 0.378, z= 2.904, p< .01). Specically, speakers
of Dutch were more likely to use manner verbs plus Tra-
jectory adjuncts than speakers of Chinese, and this com-
bination was more frequent in descriptions of Endpoint-
oriented events than Endpoint-reached events.
To take a closer look at the patterns within each
language group separately, we built two multinomial
logistic regression models, with Event type as the xed
factor (dummy coded), one for each language.
dependent variable in each model was verb and
adjunct combination. There was a signicant eect of
Event type in the Chinese group (χ
= 178.02, p< .001).
The most frequent patterns in descriptions of End-
point-oriented events in Chinese were manner verb
plus Endpoint and manner verb plus Location-only
(with a proportion of 0.31 [N= 74/241, Range 0.00
0.89] and 0.26 [N= 62/241, Range 0.000.70], respect-
ively), and no signicant dierence in their proportion
of use was found (β=0.177, SE = 0.172, z=1.028, p
= .304). The most typical pattern in descriptions of End-
point-reached events in Chinese was the combination
of serial verb construction plus Endpoint (with a pro-
portion of 0.65, N= 173/268, Range 0.201.00). There
was also a signicant eect of Event type in the Dutch
group (χ
= 71.341, p< .001). In Dutch, the most typical
pattern in descriptions of Endpoint-reached events was
manner verb plus Endpoint (with a proportion of 0.69,
N= 179/260, Range 0.101.00). However, the most
typical patterns in the descriptions of Endpoint-oriented
events were manner verb plus Endpoint and manner
verb plus Trajectory (with a proportion of 0.49 [N= 113/
231, Range 0.121.00] and 0.357 [N= 81/231, Range
0.000.75], respectively). The former pattern occurred
signicantly more often than the latter one (β=0.333,
SE = 0.146, z=2.287, p< .05).
Table 2. Examples of verb-path combinations in Chinese and Dutch.
Chinese Dutch
Manner verb + Endpoint (MaEnd) Yi-ge nanshi zou xiang yi-liang che.
a man walk towards a car
Een hond rent naar een deur.
a dog runs to a door
Manner verb + Location (MaLoc) Liang-ge ren zou zai lu shang.
two people walk on road
Een paardrijder op een paard loopt op een pad.
A horse rider on a horse walks on a path
Manner verb + Trajectory (MaTra) Yi-ge nanshi yan-zhe tizi zai pa.
a man along-ZHE ladder PROG climb
Een man loopt over de straat.
a man walks along the street
Path verb + Endpoint (PaEnd) Yi-ge ren jin le yi-dong lou.
a person enter PERF a building
Een kind gaat een speeltuin binnen.
a child goes a playground inside
Path verb + Trajectory (PaTra) Yi-ge zhongnian nanzi zai shang-lou.
a middle-age man PROG ascend-stairs
Een man steekt de straat over.
a man crosses the street
Serial verb construction + Endpoint (SvcEnd) Yi-ge ren pao-jin yi-dong dalou.
a person run-enter a building
Serial verb construction + Trajectory (SvcTra) Yi-ge ren zou-guo yi-dong lou.
a person walk-cross a building
Figure 7. Verb and Path combinations used by Chinese and Dutch participants in encoding Path information in Endpoint-oriented
events: Manner verb (Ma), Path verb (Pa), Serial verb construction (Svc); Endpoint (End), Location (Loc), Trajectory (Tra).
5.3. Verb and aspect markers used in Chinese
descriptions of endpoints
The overall proportion of use of progressive and perfec-
tive aspect in Chinese endpoint descriptions was 0.05
(N= 12/243, Range 0.000.40) and 0.49 (N= 120/243,
Range 0.001.00), respectively, for Endpoint-reached
events, and 0.18 (N= 24/135, Range 0.001.00) and 0.13
(N= 17/135, Range 0.000.50), respectively, for End-
point-oriented events. We conducted multinomial logistic
regression models
to test dierences between event
types regarding verb and aspect combinations (manner
verb +/aspect, path verb +/aspect or serial verb con-
struction +/aspect). Event type was dummy coded.
Figure 8 presents the frequency of all combinations of
aspect markers and verb types in Chinese Endpoint
descriptions, for the two event types. Typical examples
of each verb and aspect combination are illustrated in
Table 3.
We found a signicant dierence between event
types (χ
= 134.49, p< .001). For Endpoint-oriented
events, the most frequent pattern in describing end-
points was manner verbs without aspect (with a pro-
portion of 0.39, N= 53/135, Range 0.001.00). Serial
verb constructions and path verbs (both without
aspect) were the second and third most frequent pat-
terns found (with a proportion of 0.18 [N= 24/135,
Range 0.001.00] and 0.11 [N= 15/135, Range 0.00
0.75], respectively). Manner verbs (without aspect) were
used signicantly more often than serial verb construc-
tions and path verbs (both without aspect; serial verb
construction vs manner verb Intercept β=0.792, SE =
0.246, z=3.220, p= .001; path verb vs manner verb Inter-
cept β=1.262, SE = 0.293, z=4.316, p< .001), while
the latter two did not dier signicantly (serial verb
construction vs path verb Intercept β= 0.470, SE = 0.329,
z= 1.428, p= .153). The progressive marker was com-
bined with manner verbs and satellites, as well as with
serial verb constructions and path verbs but each only
with a proportion of 0.10 (N= 13/135, Range 0.000.50),
0.06 (N= 8/135, Range 0.000.50), and 0.02 (N= 3/135,
Range 0.000.50). In Endpoint-reached events, the most
frequent patterns in encoding endpoints were serial
verb constructions plus the perfective aspect and serial
verb constructions without aspect (with a proportion of
0.42 [N= 102/243, Range 0.001.00] and 0.28 [N= 69/
243, Range 0.000.86], respectively). The former one
was used signicantly more often than the latter one
(serial verb construction plus perfective vs serial verb con-
struction Intercept β= 0.391, SE = 0.156, z= 2.508, p
< .05). The perfective marker was also found in combi-
nation with path verbs and manner verbs but only with
a proportion of 0.07 (N= 16/243, Range 0.000.33) and
0.01 (N= 2/243, Range 0.000.13), respectively.
5.4. Memory task
For the surprise memory task, we rst calculated each
participants d-prime score (detection sensitivity, Macmil-
lan & Creelman, 1991). An independent ttest was con-
ducted on the d-prime scores. We found no signicant
dierence in the d-prime scores between groups
(Chinese: Range 0.284.65, M= 2.08, SD = 1.23; Dutch:
Range 0.003.28, M= 2.10, SD = 0.93; t(59) = 0.051, p=
0.960). We then did an independent ttest on the RTs
of all accurate YES/NO responses. Zero to 3500 ms was
determined as a reasonable cut-obased on the
density of the RT data. RTs that were longer than
3500 ms were excluded from analyses. We found that
Figure 8. The combination of aspect markers and dierent verb types in Chinese Endpoint descriptions for Endpoint-oriented and end-
point-reached events: zero aspect marker combined (MaOnly, PaOnly, SvcOnly), with the perfective marker (MaPerf, PaPerf, SvcPerf),
with the progressive marker (MaProg, PaProg, SvcProg).
Dutch participants were signicantly faster than Chinese
participants in giving accurate responses (Chinese: M=
1757 ms, SD = 670 ms, Range 827.75 ms3216.00 ms;
Dutch: M= 1483 ms, SD = 494 ms, Range 850.67 ms
1984.00 ms; t(293.67) = 4.223, p< .001). However, the
same pattern was also found for ller items (Chinese:
M= 1663 ms, SD = 634 ms, Range 810.67 ms2484 ms;
Dutch: M= 1356 ms, SD = 489 ms, Range 676.33 ms
1891 ms; t(266.27) = 4.550, p< .001).
6. Discussion
Our motion event description task set out to discover (1)
how the path of motion, the core schema of a motion
event, is conceptualised in Chinese and Dutch (what
path information is selected for encoding?), and (2)
how the path of motion is described in Chinese and
Dutch, in terms of the linguistic means used (what verb
and adjunct types are used and combined in path
descriptions?). Third, we were specically interested in
the extent to which dierent aspectual markers were
used and combined with verb types in Chinese endpoint
descriptions. In addition, we explored memory of end-
points in a surprise memory task, administered post ver-
balisation. Speakers of the two languages viewed and
described two types of video stimuli. One type showed
Endpoint-oriented events in which a moving entity
moved along a trajectory (e.g. a road, a street) with a
potential but not reached Endpoint at its end (woman
walking along a street towards a bus stop). The other
video type depicted Endpoint-reached events with
similar scenarios, but the Endpoints were all reached
by the end of the video clips (man entering a building).
6.1. Conceptualising the path of motion
We hypothesised that in Endpoint-reached events,
speakers of both languages would prefer to mention
endpoints over other types of path information (trajec-
tory and location). We indeed found a strong preference
for mentioning goals of Endpoint-reached motion events
in both languages. This pattern did not occur when end-
points were displayed as not reached in the video clips.
For events in which entities were only moving towards
an endpoint, the trajectory or location of the motion
was conceptualised and described as the path of
motion most frequently.
Speakers in our experiment seemed to distinguish
between these two event types, in line with classi-
cations made in situation type theories (Croft, 2012;
Klein, 1994; Vendler, 1967) and in line with Event Seg-
mentation theory (Zacks et al., 2007). According to
Klein (1994), situations are categorised into zero-state
situations (e.g. a tree is a plant), one-state situations
(e.g. she is sleeping) and two-state situations (e.g. she
left). In our study, the Endpoint-oriented events are
one-state situations that involve no (substantial) qualitat-
ive changes (e.g. two women are walking along/on a path
towards a house in the distance), whereas Endpoint-
reached events are in nature boundary-crossing events
that indicate a change of location, and thus represent
two-state situations. Event Segmentation theory pro-
poses that event boundaries are perceived when
specic features of an event change substantially:
Studies have shown that the event boundaries that
people detect, when asked to segment ongoing activity
into individual events, include changes in spatial location
(for example, Zacks, Speer, & Reynolds, 2009; Zwaan &
Radvansky, 1998). When a change in spatial location is
prominent as in our Endpoint-reached events, event
boundaries (the endpoints) are highly salient and are
thus likely to be mentioned when people are asked to
verbally report on the events. Therefore, speakers of
both languages exhibited a strong preference for encod-
ing Endpoint information when the video clips showed
reached endpoints. This is similar to the goal (over
source) bias reported in previous studies in relation to
motion event conceptualisation (e.g. Lakusta & Landau,
2005; Papafragou, 2010). However, when the endpoints
had to be inferred and were not depicted as reached,
people in the present study did not predominantly con-
strue the events as two-state situations. To form a repor-
table unitof the motion event they were watching,
speakers selected other elements in the scene to comp-
lement the motion verbs. Specically, in these cases,
other elements of the path of motion became anchoring
pointsfor the motion event, as the path of motion rep-
resents the coreof an event of motion (Talmy, 2000).
Utterances describing motion events without any path
information are under-informative from a communica-
tive perspective; and indeed, utterances without
Table 3. Examples of verb-aspect combinations in Chinese.
Manner verb + Perfective (MaPerf) Yi-wei nanshi zou xiang le yi-liang
lanse de che.
a man walk towards PERF a blue
Manner verb + Progressive (MaProg) Yi-ge xiaohai zai zou xiang
a kid PROG walk towards
Path verb + Perfective (PaPerf) Yi-ge nande jin le yi-ge jiaotang.
a man enter PERF a church
Path verb + Progressive (PaProg) Yi-ge nanshi zai guo malu.
a man PROG cross street
Serial verb construction + Perfective
Yi-liang qiche kai-jin le cheku.
a car drive-enter PERF garage
Serial verb construction +
Progressive (SvcProg)
Zhe-ge nvshi zai xiang dalou zou-qu.
this woman PROG towards
building walk-go
adjuncts containing path information at all are rare in the
present data set (e.g. a man is walking).
As for Endpoint-oriented events, we hypothesised
that speakers of Chinese and speakers of Dutch would
show dierent preferences in terms of mentioning end-
points, given cross-linguistic dierences in the use of
grammatical aspect and verb lexicalisation patterns.
However, our results showed similar frequencies regrad-
ing endpoint mentioning in both Endpoint-reached and
Endpoint-oriented events in Chinese and Dutch. In
addition, we hypothesised that for endpoint-oriented
events, speakers of Dutch would react more accurately
and/or faster than speakers of Chinese in our surprise
endpoint recognition memory task. Our results did not
support this hypothesis either. There was no signicant
dierence in the detection sensitivity between the two
language groups. We did nd that Dutch participants
were signicantly faster than the Chinese group in
giving accurate responses. However, the same pattern
was also found for ller items. It seems that Dutch partici-
pants were generally faster than the Chinese group in
making accurate choices, possibly due to the fact that
the Dutch participants had more experience participat-
ing in psycholinguistic experiments than participants in
the Chinese group. Our hypotheses were based on von
Stutterheims work (2006,2012), in which speakers of
aspectual languages were shown to be less likely to
mention endpoints, compared to speakers of non-aspec-
tual languages (for the same Endpoint-oriented events
used in the present study). We do not observe this
same pattern, likely due to the fact that the two
languages under investigation do not clearly fall into
the one or the other language cluster in terms of
aspect; whereas Chinese marks both progressive and
perfective aspect, the markers are not used across the
board in descriptions of motion events (see results in
section 5.3). In addition, although Dutch speakers do
not typically use progressive aspect to describe motion,
the available markers are used frequently in other
event types, e.g. causative actions (knitting a scarf,
peeling potatoes) or activities (playing football). In this
sense, Dutch speakers are used to marking an aspectual
viewpoint on an event. The cross-linguistic comparison is
thus by no means straightforward and it is not clear
whether Dutch and Chinese would behave similarly to
previously investigated aspectual and/or non-aspectual
languages. Georgakopoulos et al. (2019) reported that
verb lexicalisation patterns should have an impact on
the frequency of reference to goals or endpoints in
motion events. Specically, speakers of satellite-framed
languages should be more likely to encode endpoints
than speakers of verb-framed languages. We are cur-
rently not able to support this claim on the basis of the
present data from Dutch and Chinese. Again, this could
be due to the diculty of classifying Chinese into one
or the other language cluster: We nd that although
Chinese has an abundance of path verbs, the data
show a typical satellite-framed pattern (a manner verb
followed by a satellite), when endpoints were depicted
as not reached and had to be inferred in the events.
Given motion events with reached endpoints, Chinese
mainly uses serial verb constructions with a perfective
marker (see results in section 5.3). The typical syntactic
framing patterns in the descriptions thus dier across
event types in Chinese. This corresponds to what is men-
tioned as split conationin Talmy (2000) and in Levin
and Rappaport Hovav (2019).
As for Endpoint-oriented events, we also hypoth-
esised that Chinese and Dutch would show divergent
patterns in terms of the frequency of selection of trajec-
tory vs location information for motion construal. We
indeed nd a signicant dierence here: Dutch speakers
encoded features of the ground traversed (the trajectory
of motion) much more often than Chinese speakers. On
the other hand, speakers of Chinese were found to
encode the location of moving entity without any
additional path elements much more frequently. These
Location-only references in Chinese often followed a
manner verb. This same pattern was found in verb-
framed languages, such as French, Italian and Arabic
(Carroll et al., 2012; Flecken et al., 2015; von Stutterheim,
Bouhaous, & Carroll, 2017). Flecken et al. (2015) and von
Stutterheim et al. (2017) argue that this is driven by the
abundant presence of path verbs in verb-framed
languages: whereas path verbs are typically used to
describe changes in location and directed motion,
manner verbs are often used when a change in spatial
location is not evident (as is the case in our Endpoint-
oriented events). When manner verbs are used,
however, the event is conceptualised in terms of the
characteristics of the Figure in motion (is she skating,
running, hopping?) rather than about the changes in
space she is engaged in; the manner verb asserts a prop-
erty of the gure, which is then combined with an
adjunct, locating the gure in motion in space. If a
speaker of a verb-framed language wants to describe
goal-directed motion and provide information on the
Figures manner of motion at the same time, the typically
reported pattern is of a divisionof information across
two utterances, e.g. a woman is walking on the road,
and is heading for a bus stop. It has recently been demon-
strated that these dierences in motion event conceptu-
alisation between satellite-framed and verb-framed
languages also lead to dierences in event segmentation
patterns: in the verb-framed language French, a video of,
for example, a woman walking along a road, then turning
right up a ight of stairs, was segmented into two single
events, with the rst one providing information on
manner of motion (combined with a reference to a
spatial location, e.g. walk on the street), and the second
one containing directed motion information, e.g.
ascend stairs (Gerwien & Stutterheim, 2018). As we
have mentioned above, Chinese exhibits characteristics
of verb-framed languages (Beavers et al., 2010; Ji et al.,
2011; Ji & Hohenstein, 2017). Chinese also shows the
pattern that when manner verbs are used alone to
describe a motion event, a locative adjunct is preferred
over a trajectory adjunct by speakers. As a typical satel-
lite-framed language, Dutch descriptions typically
contain a manner verb followed by trajectory-infor-
mation, instead of a locative adjunct alone. The current
description pattern thus hints at a dierent role for
manner verbs in motion conceptualisation in Chinese,
compared to Dutch.
6.2. Verb and adjunct types used
We hypothesised that in Endpoint-reached events,
speakers of Chinese would adopt serial verb construc-
tions predominantly to describe endpoints, whereas
speakers of Dutch would predominantly make use of
manner verbs plus satellites to describe Endpoint.
Among the descriptions of Endpoint-reached events,
we found that speakers of Chinese indeed mainly
used serial verb constructions, whilst both single
manner verbs and single path verbs were used
occasionally. The latter two types did not dier in
their proportion of occurrence. On the other hand,
speakers of Dutch used manner verbs plus satellites
most often. Speakers of the two languages indeed pre-
sented dierent verb lexicalisation patterns when
encoding Endpoint-reached events. Our ndings are
similar to what has been found in Ji et al. (2011)in
which they compared English and Chinese for caused
motion events.
We hypothesised that in Endpoint-oriented events,
Dutch would exhibit features of a typical satellite-
framed language and would mostly use satellites to
describe path information (including Endpoint, Trajec-
tory and Location-only). However, we were unclear as
to what patterns Chinese would use to encode the
path of motion, as no previous studies have systemati-
cally studied this. We considered the use of satellites,
serial verb constructions and path verbs as possible
options. We found that in Dutch, satellites were used
most often (encoding either endpoints or trajectory
information, combined with manner verbs), and path
verbs were infrequently used to describe the path of
motion (0.91 [N= 209/231, Range = 0.561.00] vs 0.09
[N= 21/231, Range 0.000.45] proportion of use
respectively). Therefore, Dutch showed characteristics
of a typical satellite-framed language. In Chinese, all
three types of verbal constructions were used (0.60
[N= 144/241, Range 0.001.00] vs 0.11 [N= 27/241,
Range 0.000.83] vs 0.28 [N= 68/241, Range 0.20
1.00] of use of manner verbs, path verbs, and serial
verb constructions), and manner verbs occurred
mainly with endpoints or location-references (pro-
portion of 0.31 [N= 74/241, Range 0.000.89] and
0.26 [N= 62/241, Range 0.000.70], respectively) in
this type of event. This latter pattern is hypothesised
to be a typical verb-framed pattern, as discussed in
the previous section. The former pattern is considered
to be typical of satellite-framed languages. In addition,
serial verb constructions (predominantly without
additional path adjuncts) and single path verbs were
used as well. Overall, Chinese showed use of all three
available options and exhibited both satellite- and
verb-framing properties.
In sum, Dutch showed features of a typical satellite-
framed language in both event types, whereas Chinese
is a mixed type with features of satellite-framed and
verb-framed languages. Our ndings are similar to
what was reported in Ji et al. (2011), in which English
and Chinese descriptions of caused motion events
were analysed. The authors concluded that Chinese
was dierent from English (a typical satellite-framed
language) in that it exhibited both satellite-and verb-
framing properties. Our study thus supports their con-
clusion on the typology of Chinese, for the domain of
voluntary motion with varying degrees of goal-
6.3. Verb types and aspect markers used in
Chinese descriptions of endpoints
This section specically targets the use of the aspect
markers (zai and le) and their combinations with
dierent verb types in Chinese references to endpoints.
An interrelation between aspect and endpoints has
been reported before for motion events in which an end-
point is referable but not reached (Athanasopoulos &
Bylund, 2013; von Stutterheim et al., 2012). Moreover,
researchers have claimed that verb lexicalisation pat-
terns can aect the way people construe endpoints as
well (Georgakopoulos et al., 2019). Chinese is considered
an aspectual language but use of aspect is not obliga-
tory. Besides, Chinese exhibits features of both satellite-
framed languages and verb-framed languages in terms
of verb lexicalisation patterns. Therefore, by following
the approach in Georgakopoulos et al. (2019), we tried
to unravel the typical patterns in Chinese endpoint
descriptions, taking into account both typological fea-
tures. In doing so, we aim to gain a deeper insight into
the interrelation of aspect, verb semantics, and endpoint
conceptualisation in Chinese.
We found that the patterns diered across Endpoint-
oriented and Endpoint-reached events. For Endpoint-
oriented events, the typical pattern in Chinese was the
use of a manner verb without aspect followed by a direc-
tional preposition (e.g. zou xiang walk to/towards). The
progressive marker zai occurred more often than the per-
fective le in this pattern. Serial verb constructions were
also used (e.g. chao xx zou-qu towards xx walk-go),
mainly without aspect, but occasionally with the pro-
gressive aspect. Moreover, a single path-verb pattern
was also observed in descriptions of inferable endpoints
(e.g. qu go), but no aspect was used. In sum, when the
endpoints were depicted as not reached, Chinese exhi-
bits a typical satellite-framed language pattern (a
manner verb followed by a directional preposition),
without the use of aspect markers, in line with the pat-
terns obtained for typical non-aspectual languages
(von Stutterheim et al., 2012).
When endpoints were shown as reached in the video
clips, the typical pattern found in Chinese was the use of
a serial verb construction followed by a perfective marker
(e.g. zou-jin le walk-enter PERF). Single path verbs (e.g.
jin enter) were also used in combination with the per-
fective marker le. Chinese thus shows a preference to
use the perfective aspect in case of reached endpoints,
so-called boundary crossing events, dierent from the
typical description patterns obtained for cases in which
goals are not reached. This again underlines the previous
statement that the available aspect markers in Chinese
are not used across the board; they are used frequently
(especially in boundary-crossing events), but use is
6.4. Implications for typologies of motion
expression and theories of event cognition
The present study provides a ne-grained picture of how
people conceptualise and describe events, going beyond
previous work in several aspects. First of all, we
investigated a language pair (Chinese and Dutch) that
has not been compared in the domain of motion con-
ceptualisation, looking at both grammatical aspect and
verb lexicalisation patterns, before. The two languages
do not fall into a clear category of aspectual/non-aspec-
tual languages, nor of satellite-framed/verb-framed
languages, providing new insights relevant to typologies
of motion expression. Second of all, we included two
event types, endpoint-reached and endpoint-oriented
events, oering a detailed analysis of motion
conceptualisation and description cross-linguistically.
Importantly, we included a focus on events in which
there are no clear goals or boundaries, dierent from
most previous motion description work which is
heavily centred on understanding how people deal
with goals and boundary-crossing events almost exclu-
sively. We thus investigated in more detail how people
conceive of the content of a motion event, i.e. how are
other elements that are part of the event leading up to
its boundary conceptualised during production? What
information do people select to form an event unit
(Gerwien & Stutterheim, 2018), when the event boundary
is not salient? We found that other elements of the path
of motion became anchoring points for event conceptu-
alisation, i.e. people select either the Figures location in
space (on the street), or the trajectory traced by the
Figure (along the road) for encoding. Importantly, we
found cross-linguistic dierences therein, showing diver-
sity with respect to how people conceptualise the inner
structure of a motion event. In sum, we extend the cross-
linguistic research on motion expression which has pre-
dominantly reported a general goal-bias (compared to
sources), in relation to boundary-crossing events (e.g.
Papafragou, 2010).
Importantly, our ndings can also inform event cogni-
tion theories because we go beyond a strong and exclu-
sive focus on event boundaries (motion event
endpoints): Existing theories describe how important
event boundaries are during perceptual processing and
in memory representation of events (Zacks et al., 2007).
However, they do not describe how people process
and weight the various other elements that comprise
an event, prior to its boundary. Here, we show that
people are sensitive to those other elements of the
path of motion depicted in a motion event. People
hardly produce utterances without any path information
(e.g. using only a manner verb to describe manner of
motion: a woman is walking), underlining the fact that
the path of motion is the core schema of a motion
event (Talmy, 2000), and suggesting that manner of
motion (in isolation) may not be represented strongly
in our event cognition. Interestingly, the cross-linguistic
dierences we obtained in the conceptualisation and
expression of trajectory and location of motion show
that speakers of dierent languages may take dierent
viewpoints when encoding certain events. When event
boundaries (endpoints) are not salient, and the Figure
in the event is moving without a clear goal in sight,
speakers of both Chinese and Dutch seemingly take
the same perspective, by highlighting the manner of
motion using manner verbs. However, they combine
them with dierent path-elements, implying dierent
foci of attention: Chinese speakers, resembling speakers
of verb-framed languages, followed a pattern in which
motion through space without a clear boundary-crossing
entails localising the moving entity in space (e.g. a man is
cycling in the countryside). In this pattern, the manner of
motion becomes more like a statement regarding a
property of the gure in motion (i.e. the man is cycling,
not running, in the countryside), rather than an instance
of directed motion. In Dutch, such events are conceptu-
alised as instances of movement along a trajectory
(manner of motion verbs combined with trajectory infor-
mation, e.g. cycling across the street, along the road, over
the hill). Indeed, an eye-tracking study comparing French
and German speakers shows that, when endpoints are
not salient, the use of manner verbs in the two groups
goes hand in hand with dierent patterns of visual atten-
tion allocation during speech planning: Speakers of the
verb-framed language French showed a more pro-
nounced degree of attention allocated to the gure in
motion, as compared to German speakers (Flecken
et al. 2015). In their descriptions, French speakers also
showed a preference to combine manner verbs with
the mentioning of the location of the gure. In all, the
present study thus underlines that the production of see-
mingly similar verbal material (manner verbs) in dierent
languages can be guided by dierent conceptualisation
patterns, as reected in online attention allocation, and
the path components these verbs are combined with
in the descriptions (see also Carroll et al., 2012; von Stut-
terheim et al., 2017). This renders the interesting possi-
bility that certain principles and processing routines in
event cognition in general may dier across speakers
of dierent languages. For example, Gerwien and Stut-
terheim (2018) were able to show dierences in the gran-
ularity of event segmentation between French and
German, because of dierences in the languagesverb
lexicalisation and motion conceptualisation patterns.
It is important to note that the current ndings of
cross-linguistic dierences were obtained in settings
with very specic task demands (scene conceptualisation
during an event description task). One important open
question is, how do people perceive and conceptualise
endpoint-oriented events when they are not required
to speak about them? In our comparison of production
patterns, we nd a strong inuence of the respective lin-
guistic means (both semantic and grammatical) available
in the languages tested on path component selection;
the question is, what saliency do people attribute to tra-
jectory and location in a motion event (when endpoints
are not salient), outside the realm of speaking? Future
experiments should consider using non-linguistic tasks
that tag the saliency (as reected in perception, atten-
tion, and memory) of various elements of the path of
motion for endpoint-oriented events. A combination of
linguistic tasks with other more sensitive measures (e.g.
eye tracking, reaction-time-based or neurophysiological
measures) can be very helpful for enhancing our under-
standing of the relation between language and event
cognition. One way to move forward would be to tap
into post-verbalisation memory of location and trajectory
of motion, linking more closely path-component selec-
tion in production (and cross-linguistic dierences
therein) and memory. In sum, as mentioned above, we
nd dierences in event conceptualisation (path com-
ponent selection) between Chinese and Dutch speakers
when describing endpoint-oriented events. Important
remaining questions are, can we capture these as dier-
ences in online event processing during speaking, in
memory after speaking, or beyond speaking, during
event processing without language in a nonlinguistic
Interestingly, even though Chinese and Dutch speak-
ers showed the same conceptualisation patterns for end-
point-reached events, they packaged the information
into dierent linguistic means and structures. The ques-
tion is, what consequences do dierent information
packaging styles have for online processing of events,
both during information uptake for event description,
but also more globally, outside a speaking context,
when taking into account habitual patterns in infor-
mation packaging and distribution? An intriguing test
case concerns dierences in the use of aspect and the
consequences this has for online event processing.
There is increasing evidence that aspectual marking
entails viewpoint selection, reected in eye movement
patterns, brain potentials and also mental simulation
during event comprehension (e.g. Huette, Winter,
Matlock, Ardell, & Spivey, 2014; Madden & Zwaan,
2003). For example, the frequent use of the perfective
aspect in Chinese in describing reached endpoints
(dierent from Dutch) might lead to dierent online pro-
cessing of this spatial information in Chinese speakers,
compared to Dutch speakers: does the highlighting of
the action as completed with verb aspect inuence
attentional focus to event endpoints, during event pro-
cessing (and when?)? Also, when taking into account
the verbal structures used to describe motion events
with reached endpoints, what cognitive processing
pattern underlies the production of serial verb construc-
tions in Chinese, as compared to verb + satellite con-
structions, frequent in Dutch? Because of the tight
packaging of manner and endpoint information in one
construction, it is possible that Chinese speakers, when
planning to use serial verb constructions, pay attention
to the two elements at the same time/to the same
extent, while Dutch speakers may rst (or predomi-
nantly) pay attention to manner, given that that is the
information encoded in the verb. The information
encoded in the verb is crucial for dening event structure
and roles (see e.g. Slobin, 2006; Vendler, 1967), and
should therefore hypothetically lead to enhanced atten-
tion allocation to the respective event dimension during
early phases of sentence planning. These subtle dier-
ences in information packaging could be reected in
dierences in the time course of processing and atten-
tion allocation towards visual endpoints. Previous work
has studied event segmentation under the dependency
of serial verb constructions and found that when
people were primed with a serial verb construction,
their segmentation of subsequent visual input was
more coarse-grained, compared to the use of coordi-
nated sentences (two single verbs) (Dena, 2016a).
Also, a study of co-speech gestures suggests that serial
verb constructions reect single conceptual events
(Dena, 2016b)to what extent is this similar to, or
dierent from, satellite-framed packaging of manner
information in the verb, and path information in a satel-
lite? These issues deserve detailed investigation in the
future, not only studying language production, but also
language comprehension accompanied with visual
input, and visual processing in the absence of overt
language use, comparing participants under dierent
conditions (dierent event types, primed with language,
or without), and from dierent language backgrounds.
7. Conclusion
The current study sheds light on the extent to which
cross-linguistic dierences between Dutch and mandarin
Chinese aect their speakersconceptualisation of the
path of motion in motion events. We rst investigated
motion event conceptualisation patterns in speakers of
the two language groups, by targeting their selection
of Endpoint, Location-only or Trajectory information
when describing motion events. We then took both
typological features (aspect and verb lexicalisation pat-
terns) into account and analysed the use of dierent lin-
guistic patterns, in terms of combinations of verb
semantics, path-elements encoded and aspect, in
motion event descriptions. Specic hypotheses were
based on the typology of verb lexicalisation patterns
and grammatical aspect systems. We found that in
terms of the frequency of encoding of goals or end-
points, speakers of the two languages showed similar
patterns. In terms of how endpoints were described,
speakers exhibited cross-linguistically similar patterns
for Endpoint-oriented events, but dierent ones for End-
point-reached events. However, regarding the selection
of path elements other than Endpoints (in Endpoint-
oriented events), speakers of Dutch preferred to
encode information concerning the trajectory of
motion (e.g. a car drives along the road), whilst speakers
of Chinese often chose to locate the entity in motion in
space (a woman walks on the street). The former pre-
sents a typical satellite-framed pattern, while the latter
shows the same pattern found in verb-framed
languages, such as French, Italian and Arabic (von Stut-
terheim et al., 2017). We conclude that cross-linguistic
dierences in motion conceptualisation between Dutch
and mandarin Chinese can be detected given the
present design, using events with dierent degrees of
goal orientation, and taking into account both verb lexi-
calisation patterns and grammatical aspect usage. By
reporting detailed comparisons of the linguistic patterns
(considering both aspectual systems and verb lexicalisa-
tion patterns) in both languages, for two event types, we
provide an in-depth understanding of the relation
between linguistic typology and event conceptualisation
in language production.
1. The verb to parkwas excluded from analysis for both
languages because it conveys features of manner (not
all moving entities can park) and features of path (a
change of location) at the same time (1.038% of the
data were excluded: 12 cases out of 1156 sentences in
2. Utterances that did not mention a specic endpoint
location but implied one through an action (e.g. super-
market was implied in going shopping; gas station
was implied in go lling in gas) were considered as
endpoint mentioning. Utterances that implied a
specic endpoint location (e.g. hij loopt naar binnen he
goes inside) or an unspecic endpoint (e.g. ta xiang
qian zou he towards front walk) were considered as
endpoint mentioning as well.
3. The deictic verb go(gaan in Dutch and qu in Chinese)
was coded as a path verb in both languages. It should be
noted that in both languages, the deictic verb can be fol-
lowed by a spatial location (e.g. go to a supermarket) or
an action (e.g. go shopping). The deictic verb gowas
also coded as a path verb for the latter case in which
the directed motion meaning is bleached/less evident.
4. Subordinate ZHE clauses (for example, qi zhe zixingche jin
mendong ride ZHE bike enter gate) were not coded as
part of serial verb constructions in this study. We coded
the verb/verbs following these subordinate clauses. In
this example, the verb jin enterwas coded as path
verb. The utterance qi zhe zixingche zou xiang mendong
ride ZHE bike walk towards gatethe verb was coded
as containing a manner verb; if the verbal construction fol-
lowing the ZHE clause was a serial verb, the utterance was
coded as containing a serial verb construction (e.g. qi zhe
zixingche zou-jin mendong ride ZHE bike walk enter gate).
5. We are happy to share our data (transcriptions, coded
data, memory data, experiment and analysis scripts)
upon request.
6. glmer (Endpoint Language*EventType + (1|PP) + (1|
Stimulus), data = data, family = binomial)
glmer (Location_Only Language*EventType + (1|PP) +
(1|Stimulus), data = data, family = binomial)
glmer (Trajectory Language*EventType + (1|PP) + (1|
Stimulus), data = data, family = binomial).
7. mlogit(Path1|EventType, data = PathC2, reevel = 1)
#reevel 1 = endpoint
mlogit(Path1|EventType, data = PathD2, reevel = 1)
#reevel 1 = endpoint.
8. All the dependent variables in the multinomial logistic
regression models were dummy coded. When one cat-
egory of a dependent variable was coded as 0, the
other categories of the dependent variable were all
coded as 0. So if there were Ncategories, there were
N-1 dummy variables.
9. We got these within-event-type statistics via the inter-
cepts information after running the binomial/multino-
mial logistic regression models.
10. glmer (MV Language*EventType + (1|PP) + (1|Stimu-
lus), data = data, family = binomial)
glmer (PV Language*EventType + (1|PP) + (1|Stimu-
lus), data = data, family = binomial, control = glmerCon-
trol(optimizer="bobyqa,optCtrl = list(maxfun =
11. mlogit(VerbType1|EventType, data = VerbC2, reevel =
1) #reevel 1 = MV
glmer(VerbTypeEventType + (1|PP) + (1|Stimulus), data
= VerbD3, family = binomial).
12. glmer (MaEnd Language*EventType + (1|PP) + (1|
Stimulus), data = data, family = binomial)
glmer (PaEnd Language*EventType + (1|PP) + (1|
Stimulus), data = data, family = binomial)
glmer (MaLocLanguage*EventType + (1|PP) + (1|Stimu-
lus), data = data, family = binomial)
glmer (MaTra Language + EventType + (1|PP) + (1|
Stimulus), data = data, family = binomial) # The model
that included the interaction did not converge.
glmer (PaTra Language*EventType + (1|PP) + (1|Stimu-
lus), data = data, family = binomial).
13. mlogit(VerbAdjunct1|EventType, data = ChAll3, reevel
=1) #reevel 1 = MV_endpoint
mlogit(VerbAdjunct1|EventType, data= DuAll3, reevel
=1) #reevel 1 = MV_endpoint.
14. mlogit(VerbAspect1|EventType, data =Csyntax4, reevel
=1) #reevel 1 = MV.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
This work was supported by China Scholarship Council: [grant
number 201606020119]; National Social Science Fund of
China: [grant number 18CYY004].
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... Sino-Tibetan languages such as Mandarin have somehow been neglected (e.g. Ji et al. 2011;Liao et al. 2019;Wolff et al. 2009). The present study therefore sets out to probe the segmentation of causal-chain events in Mandarin. ...
This study investigates how Mandarin speakers segment causal-chain motion events in a verbalization task. The results demonstrate that Mandarin shows attentional bias for the causal source and goal in causal-chain segmentation, which may be universal across languages. Furthermore, there is a correlation between directness of causation and the complexity of linguistic representations, with direct conceptualization leading to a preference for simpler constructions (e.g. causative verb construction, resultative verb construction), and indirect causation for more complex representations (e.g. causative periphrases and multi-macro-event constructions). The most salient factor for directness of causation in causal-chain segmentation is spatio-temporal contiguity. The macro-event property (MEP) is used to test the tightness of Mandarin causative constructions from a typological perspective. It is concluded that Mandarin demonstrates greater similarity with Ewe and Lao, but differs from Japanese and Yukatek regarding grammatical integration and event integration in causal-chain segmentation.
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Two Dutch directional prepositions (i.e., naar and richting) provide a useful paradigm to study endpoint conceptualization. Experiment 1 adopted a sentence comprehension task and confirmed the linguistic proposal that, when naar was used in motion event descriptions, participants were more certain that the reference object was the goal of the agent than when richting was used. Experiment 2 and Experiment 3 used this linguistic pair to test the effect of two factors (i.e., the actor’s goal and the interlocutor’s status) on endpoint conceptualization via language production tasks. We found significant effects of both factors. First, participants chose naar more often when there was an inference in the referential situation that the reference object was the actor’s goal than when there was no such inference. Second, participants chose richting more often when they were told to describe the referential scenario to a police officer than to a friend. Participants were more cautious with their statements and were less willing to commit themselves to stating the goal of the agent when talking to a police officer than to a friend. The results are discussed in relation to relevant linguistic theories and event theories.
Motion event construal gives insight into the nature of the linguistic and conceptual representations underlying the encoding of events. Studies show that event descriptions differ cross-linguistically due to, amongst other factors, the absence or presence of grammatical aspect. While speakers of aspect languages generally focus on the process, speakers of non-aspect languages tend to perceive the event holistically and focus on endpoints. This investigation examines visual endpoint salience as a further factor that shapes event encoding. Thus, in this model, grammatical aspect is seen as a part of a more complex system of factors that determine event construal. The analyses, which cover German speakers, English speakers, and German-speaking learners of English, involve linguistic production data and results from memory performance tests. The findings show that the focus on endpoints increases for salient stimuli. While German speakers and learners of English show a tendency to focus on endpoints, a clear preference for focusing on the process can be observed in English speakers. Verbalizing endpoints correlates with the ability to remember them in a memorization task. The implications of these outcomes are discussed in the context of two factors which shape event encoding: grammatical aspect and endpoint salience.
This study investigates the use of the Talmy-Slobin typology of semantic components of motion verbs as applied to Bible translation. Using the Bup Kudus Baru, a new Iban translation, in comparison with a framework formed by the Hebrew original, NRSV representing English translation, and occasionally a Chinese translation, the author demonstrates the key features of verb-framed, satellite-framed, and equipollently-framed languages. The analysis of two Hebrew motion verbs, yāșā’ (path verb) and hālak (manner verb), and their respective Iban translations in Bup Kudus Baru, shows that the Iban language, much like Malay and Urak Lawoi’ from the same language family, is of path-salient nature in principle, but at the same time displays the use of serial verb constructs, a feature of equipollently-framed languages when manner verbs are required. The author concludes with some suggestions of ways to apply the Talmy-Slobin model in Bible translation, from the point of view of translators, translation officers, and their institutions.
Full-text available
Serial verb constructions have often been said to refer to single conceptual events. However, evidence to support this claim has been elusive. This article introduces co-speech gestures as a new way of investigating the relationship. The alignment patterns of gestures with serial verb constructions and other complex clauses were compared in Avatime (Ka-Togo, Kwa, Niger-Congo). Serial verb constructions tended to occur with single gestures overlapping the entire construction. In contrast, other complex clauses were more likely to be accompanied by distinct gestures overlapping individual verbs. This pattern of alignment suggests that serial verb constructions are in fact used to describe single events.
Drawing upon recent insights into the role of Goal preference as reflector of cross-linguistic differences, this paper investigates the factors affecting the realization of Goals in motion event descriptions. In particular, it examines the interplay between the lexicalization pattern of a language, on the one hand, and grammatical viewpoint aspect, on the other – factors which have commonly been treated in isolation. In so doing, three typologically distinct languages were examined: English, German and Greek. The empirical basis of this paper includes: (a) a corpus study, in which we examined the distribution of Goals in a small set of verbs, and (b) an experimental verbalization study, from which we elicited descriptions of different motion event types. While the former does not give a clear picture concerning the cross-linguistic differences in Goal prominence, the latter indicates that lexicalization pattern assumes a more prominent role than grammatical viewpoint aspect in affecting Goal realization.
Events, as fundamental units in human perception and cognition, are limited by quality changes of objects over time. In the present study, we investigate the role of language in shaping event units. Given fundamental cross-linguistic differences in the concepts encoded in the verb, as in French compared to German, event unit formation was tested for motion events in a verbal (online event description, experiment 1), as well as a non-verbal task (Newtson-test, experiment 2). In German, motion and direction are described by a single assertion, i.e. one verb encoding manner (to walk …), in conjunction with adpositional phrases for path and direction (… over x across y toward z). In contrast, when information on path and direction is encoded in the verb, as typically in French, each path segment requires a separate assertion (head for x, cross y, approach z). Both experiments were based on short naturalistic video clips showing a figure moving through space along a path either without changing orientation/direction (control), or with changes in orientation/direction (critical). Analysis of the verbal task concerned the probability of producing more than one assertion to refer to the motion events presented in the clips; in the non-verbal event segmentation task, the analysis concerned the probability of marking an event boundary, as indicated by pressing a button. Results show that in French, the probability of producing more than one assertion was significantly higher in the critical condition (experiment 1) and the probability to identify an event boundary was also significantly higher (experiment 2), compared to the German participants but only in the critical condition. The findings indicate language-driven effects in event unit formation. The results are discussed in the context of theories of event cognition, thereby focusing on the role of language in the formation of cognitive structures.
This study explores the relationship between language and cognition by testing how monolingual speakers (3-year-olds, 8-year-olds and adults) who speak languages with partial typological differences in motion description (English and Chinese) respond to visual motion event stimuli in a triads matching task. The results suggest, first of all, that the two groups of 3-year-olds are predominantly path-oriented, as evidenced by their significantly longer fixation on path-match videos rather than manner-match videos in a preferential-looking scheme. Using categorical measurement of overt choices, the older children and adults showed no particular preference for either manner- or path-similarity criteria. However, the analysis using continuous measurement of reaction time revealed that adults were significantly quicker in responding to voluntary motion stimuli than the older children of 8 years due to their cognitive maturity; manner-matched choices were decided in a significantly shorter time than path-matched choices, and Chinese participants were found to be significantly faster than their English peers in response. Overall, our results indicate that children's non-linguistic thought is similar prior to the internalisation of the lexicalisation patterns of motion events in their native languages, but it does not show language-specific divergences after such habitual use.
Motion events and their linguistic form have been studied extensively over the past decades from a typological as well as a psycholinguistic point of view. While many studies take Talmy’s (1985. Lexicalization patterns: Semantic structure in lexical forms. In Timothy Shopen (ed.), Language typology and syntactic description: Grammatical categories and the lexicon, vol. 3, 57–149. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Toward a cognitive semantics. Cambridge: MIT Press) distinction as the starting point of their theoretical considerations, this twofold, lexicon-based typology has since been extended to capture the range of variation which languages display. Although the specifics of motion event conceptualization entail other factors in addition to space and lexical form, there are few studies on the implications of temporal categories. The aim of the present study is to document the role of aspectual categories in the construal of motion events, as observed in Tunisian Arabic (TA) and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), two closely-related varieties with relevant contrasts in the types of verbal aspectual categories they encode. The analysis is based on descriptions of different types of motion events elicited on the basis of video clips. The findings reveal basic differences in the spatial and temporal categories selected for encoding-differences which are rooted in the respective linguistic systems: while TA, in contrast to MSA, has fewer forms to express directed motion via spatial concepts (path verbs, prepositions), its aspectual system is richer. The comparison indicates how the expression of directed motion in spatial terms in MSA is conveyed via temporal aspect (progression) in TA. In conclusion, the study outlines the case for the inclusion of temporal categories, in particular grammaticalized aspect, in approaches to the typology of motion events.