Spatial Models, Prepositions, and Verb-Aspect markers

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This study explored the importance of grammatical morphemes for constructing spatially organized situation models. In particular, it examined how readers infer location in spatial models from prepositions and verb-aspect markers. Experiment 1 found that when these morphemes combine to describe the situation in progress (John was walking through the kitchen toward the bedroom), readers locate the moving entity, or figure, on the path with the specific location specified by the path or source preposition (e.g., walking out of vs. walking through). When the morphemes describe the situation as completed (John walked through the kitchen into the bedroom), readers locate the figure at or inside the goal. Simple past tense sentences with walked to describe location less precisely than do other constructions, with readers locating the figure on the path or at the goal (Experiment 1). However, walked to sentences clearly describe goal locations when they are changed from simple past to present perfect tense (has walked to; Experiment 2), or when the simple past sentences occur as part of the sequence of events defining the plot of a narrative (Experiment 3). The study showed that grammatical units are as important as lexical units for guiding the construction of situation models during comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-469
Number of pages29
JournalDiscourse Processes
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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