The semantics of spatial demonstratives
- Mikkel Wallentin, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
- Roberta Rocca, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
AbstractSpatial demonstratives (words like "this" and "that") are thought to primarily be used for carving up space into a peripersonal and extrapersonal domain. However, when given a noun out of context and asked to couple it with a demonstrative, speakers tend to use this for manipulable objects (small, harmless, inanimate), while non-manipulable objects (large, harmful, animate) are more likely to be coupled with that. Here, we extend these findings and map demonstrative use along a wide spectrum of semantic features. We conducted a large-scale (N = 2197) experiment eliciting demonstratives for 506 words, rated across 65+11 perceptually and cognitively relevant semantic dimensions. We replicated the findings that demonstrative choice is influenced by object manipulability. Demonstrative choice was additionally found to be related to a set of semantic factors, including valence, arousal, loudness, motion, time and more generally, the self. Importantly, demonstrative choices were highly structured across participants, as shown by a strong correlation detected in a split-sample comparison of by-word demonstrative distribution.
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