Sociotopography: Language, landscape and culture in spatial cognition
A/Prof Bill Palmer, University of Newcastle
Cross-cultural diversity in linguistic and non-linguistic spatial behaviour is well known (Levinson 2003, Levinson & Wilkins 2006). Much research treats languages as unitary data points (Majid et al 2004). However, a handful of studies have found that individuals within language communities vary in their spatial referential strategy preferences (Bohnemeyer et al 2014; Cerqueglini 2018; Dasen & Mishra 2010; Lawton 2001; Meakins & Algy 2016; Shapero 2016). Findings from a recent large-scale study show significant variation between speakers in strategy preferences, and that these preferences correlate with environment (e.g. urban density), group-level cultural practices (e.g. dominant subsistence mode), and individual demographic factors (occupation, age, gender, education etc) (Palmer et al 2018a, 2018b), leading to the development of the notion of sociotopography (Palmer et al 2017), a model in which conceptual representations of space are constructed in response to a complex interplay of factors including the environment of the language locus; sociocultural factors (habitual interactions with environment, meanings assigned to landscape, etc); and the resources of the language itself. I conclude by introducing the OzSpace project (Palmer et al 2018c, 2019), investigating spatial behaviour in Indigenous Australian language communities.
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