- Event representation in language and cognition
Since, perhaps, the publication of Pederson et al. (1998) and Levinson (2003), there has been growing interest in studying the language of spatial representations. The [End Page 461] present book, the eleventh in the series Language, culture and cognition, is another invaluable addition to this field. Focusing on event representations in language and cognition, this book consists of eleven chapters written by leading experts in the field.
In the first chapter, “On representing events — an introduction” (pp. 1–12), Pederson and Bohnemeyer discuss the concept of event and review previous analyses of event representation in the linguistics and psychology literature. The authors underline that the book aims to bring together the linguistic and psychological research on linguistic and cognitive event representations. Then, they provide a brief summary of the articles in the book.
In the following article, “Event representation in serial verb constructions” (pp. 13–42), Pawley starts by reminding readers about the discussion between him and Givón in their earlier publications on the nature of event representations in serial verb constructions of some languages of New Guinea. The author here focuses on Kalam and English to further elaborate this discussion. In doing so, he gives a basic outline of word classes, verbal clauses, and clause-chaining constructions in Kalam, presents the findings of Givon’s studies, shows logical problems in those studies, and finally proposes a new study to compare compact and narrative serial verb constructions. According to the author, these conventionally used narrative serial verb constructions cannot be translated as a single verb but are comparable to narrations or short stories in English. It is this difference that may make speakers of Kalam and English differ from one another in their segmentation of events.
In the third article, “The macro-event property: The segmentation of causal chains” (pp. 43–67), Bohnemeyer et al. examine how languages encode causal chains of events. The authors present results from their studies which were collected from four languages (Ewe, Japanese, Lao, and Yukatek) using a questionnaire and 74 video clips to elicit event descriptions. In doing so, they propose that languages differ from one another in the way that they segment events with respect to the macro-event property (MEP), defined as follows: “an event-denoting construction has the MEP iff it combines only with those time-propositional or durational operators that have scope over all sub-events it entails” (p. 48). The studies reported here show that Japanese is different from the other three languages in that Japanese, but not the others, uses multiple MEP expressions to encode causal chains of events.
In “Event representation, time event relations, and clause structure: A cross-linguistic study of English and German” (pp. 68–83), Carroll and von Stutterheim investigate to what extent English and German speakers differ from each other in macro-event properties and sub-events in their event descriptions. For this, the authors collect data from 30 English and 30 German speakers by using 40 video clips, each depicting a different event. They show that English descriptions include new referents in an existential predication then categorize the event in a subordinate clause whereas German descriptions include new referents and the event in the same clause (e.g., There is a girl shopping in a supermarket vs. A girl shops in a supermarket).
Unlike the other articles, which focus on event representations in spoken languages, Özyürek and Perniss’s chapter (pp. 84–107) examines event representations in sign languages, focusing on Turkish Sign Language and German Sign Language. [End Page 462] Investigating how sign languages represent events can provide new insights because sign languages use the space in front of the signers and the body to represent spatial relations. The authors focus on perspective taking in narratives and using a set of predicates in events that depict transitivity to show to what extent these two sign languages are similar to and different from each other.
In “Linguistic and...