Speak before you Think: The Role of Language in Verb Concepts

in Journal of Cognition and Culture
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Abstract

This study investigates the role of language on verb concepts in a cross-linguistic environment. The inflectional morphology of verbs in Tamil is contrasted with Mandarin, a language that does not explicitly reflect tense changes in the same manner as Tamil and English. In the baseline condition in experiment 1, participants were required to rate the similarity of object picture pairs; and in the experimental condition, they were asked to rate the similarity of action picture pairs. In experiment 2, participants' similarity judgments and response latencies were recorded when they were presented with the object and action picture pairs. This allowed us to investigate the strength of linguistic influence when representing event concepts. Data from this study revealed a moderate influence of language on verb concepts in the target populations. There was a significant different in the response latencies of the Tamil and Chinese participants, although both language groups exhibited a similar response pattern in the action picture judgment task. This finding suggests that while both groups perceived the events similarly, language may be mediating their responses, resulting in longer response times for the Chinese participants. This could be because considering tense in Mandarin is not 'automatic' and requires extra work, possibly because it is not intrinsic to the verb.

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