Language and Thought

In this line of research we examine language and thought relation focusing on different areas such as time-space relation, time perception, and spatial events. Our goal is to figure out the role of language in various cognitive processes. Below are  some of our projects in this area:

Spatial events: Languages vary in how they encode motion elements. A motion event consists of four semantic components; figure (the actor of the action), ground (where the action occurs), path (the trajectory of the action), and manner (how the action is performed). In a series of studies we examine how individuals speaking different languages encode motion elements and whether gestural expressions resemble the spoken expressions. We currently compare English, Turkish, and Persian

Time-space interaction: Languages use various ways to express temporal relations between two time points or to describe the length of a given time. It is difficult to talk about time without benefiting from more concrete domains like space. Temporal concepts are described using these spatial metaphors such as “time flies.” In the last decade, a large amount of research has been conducted to investigate how people speaking different languages perceive and talk about time, the relation between spatial and temporal concepts, and how it develops through childhood. Yet, there are comparatively fewer studies that examine how people use other modalities such as spontaneous gestures to represent various temporal concepts. Here we examine the mapping of time onto space in individuals’ verbal and gestural expressions. In this project, we collaborate with Asst. Prof. Alex Kranjec from Duquesne University (https://sites.google.com/site/alexanderkranjec/) and also with Prof. Julio Santiago from University of Granada on other time-space projects (http://www.ugr.es/~santiago/).

Body-specificity and gesture: People all have unique, different bodies through which they experience the world. With this difference in experience variations in the representations of the world may appear. The difference between right-handed and left-handed people is a simple model to investigate the body-specificity hypothesis proposed by Casasanto (2009). Because left-handed and right-handed people interact with the outer world differently, their representations of the world may also vary. In line with this theory, we investigate how people’s hand preferences influence their comprehension of others’ hand gestures that accompany different speech content. In this project, we collaborate with Dr. Alper Açık from Özyeğin University (http://cogsci.academia.edu/AlperA%C3%A7%C4%B1k)

Gesture and cognitive processes: Gestures reflect thought processes when people talk about spatial information, such as giving directions or describing motions, and reveal information about problem solving strategies. In several studies, we examine the role of gestures in both thinking and communicating about spatial information. We compare low and high-spatial individuals’ performance on tasks based on gesture use as well as comparing various age groups and populations.