From motion perception to Bob Dylan.

A Cognitivist attentional semantics of directionals

  • Kai-Uwe Carstensen Universität Siegen


Directionals like from New York, through the tunnel, into the dark represent a major class of spatial expressions, typically associated with locomotion (verbs). Semantically, many of their aspects are notoriously difficult to characterize, among them their characteristics (classification, typology), their relation to locatives (e. g. in New York, in the tunnel, in the dark), and their composition with verbs (especially in non-locomotion contexts). Cognitively, there is a big theoretical gap to fill between aspects of low-level motion perception and the conception of static situations in terms of non-actual (loco)motion.

This paper first critically discusses Zwarts’ explicit formal account of directionals, then introduces a Cognitivist attentional semantics and finally applies the Cognitivist approach to directionals. It will be shown that attention-based conceptual representations are necessary components in directional semantics and explanatory for the mentioned aspects.

Carstensen, K.-U. (2019). From motion perception to Bob Dylan.: A Cognitivist attentional semantics of directionals. Linguistik Online, 95(2), 17–50.