Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1877-9751
  • E-ISSN: 1877-976X
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The questions of whether aspects of language (spatiotemporal metaphor and/or orthography) shape temporal cognition in general and whether English and Mandarin speakers think about time differently in particular have attracted considerable attention and controversy. Focusing on these controversial issues, the present study examines and refines the findings from previous work with some new evidence. Experiment 1 used a card arrangement task in which participants were asked to arrange in order a series of cards depicting temporal sequences of natural events. Experiment 2 included the card arrangement task (the same as in Experiment 1) and a video judgment task. In the video judgment task, the stimulus presented a horizontal or a vertical array of pictures depicting a temporal sequence of natural events, and participants were asked to verify if the temporal sequence described in the pictures was in the correct order. Converging results yielded from the two experiments demonstrate that most Mandarin speakers (approximately 80%) may be identical to English speakers with regard to their salient horizontal bias for temporal cognition. Only approximately 20% of Mandarin speakers, who overwhelmingly rely on the vertical axis to reason about time, may differ from English speakers. The evidence suggests that there might be a possible relationship between language and temporal cognition, but the relationship is far more complicated and indefinite than a simple or absolute causal one. The issue of whether language plays a powerful and critical role that shapes people’s thought remains uncertain and is subject to further examinations and clarifications. Implications for theoretical and empirical issues concerning the language-thought relationship are discussed.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): language; space; spatiotemporal metaphor; thought; time; writing direction
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