Orientation and motion in the world’s languages : From field studies to cross-linguistic comparison

Sammanfattning: Human life frequently involves spatial orientation and motion, and natural languages express manifold aspects of spatial perception in diverse ways. The articles included in this thesis delve into several of these aspects and explore space and motion from multiple perspectives, ranging from a dedicated field study of within-language variation systems to cross-linguistic comparisons of various orientation and motion aspects. A field study of Yine, an Arawakan language spoken in the Peruvian Amazonas, points to relative reference frame use by younger speakers, as opposed to riverine orientation in the speech of senior community members. The central questions addressed in two comparative studies revolve around the distinctions among languages in terms of which form classes are employed to express Place/Goal/Source coding and related motion aspects with different types of Ground arguments. A study of basic location and motion expressions in 35 languages demonstrates that motion verbs are more often pivotal than grammaticized markers for Goal and Source, and that coding asymmetries arise from the use of both also within languages. A dedicated paper on the novel computer-assisted sampling technique employed to obtain the sample of 35 languages discusses how informativity loads in grammatical descriptions can be pre-screened to facilitate data assessment. It is shown how this method can be employed to create genealogically balanced samples which give access to the variety of coding strategies present in the world’s languages. Another part of the cumulative dissertation addresses the question of how these form classes interact with various contextual factors and describes previously underresearched Source expressions based on iconic ordering of elements in detail. The findings of the thesis address the nuanced nature of orientation and motion expressions across languages. The exploration of these topics is underpinned by an array of typologically and areally diverse languages, and descriptive gaps in lesser-explored languages are highlighted throughout the thesis. The research underscores the importance of scrutinizing languages that have previously received only limited attention due to a lack of descriptions, and it offers insights into underresearched languages that are hoped to contribute to the development of a general typology of motion and orientation.