Language and Memory for Motion Events: Origins of the Asymmetry Between Source and Goal Paths

Laura Lakusta, Barbara Landau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


When people describe motion events, their path expressions are biased toward inclusion of goal paths (e.g., into the house) and omission of source paths (e.g., out of the house). In this paper, we explored whether this asymmetry has its origins in people's non-linguistic representations of events. In three experiments, 4-year-old children and adults described or remembered manner of motion events that represented animate/intentional and physical events. The results suggest that the linguistic asymmetry between goals and sources is not fully rooted in non-linguistic event representations: linguistic descriptions showed the goal bias for both kinds of events, whereas non-linguistic memory for events showed the goal bias only for events involving animate, goal-directed motion. The findings are discussed in terms of the mapping between non-linguistic representations of goals and sources in language, focusing on the role that linguistic principles play in producing a more absolute goal bias from more gradient non-linguistic representations of paths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-544
Number of pages28
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Conceptual representations
  • Goal
  • Motion events
  • Prominence hierarchies
  • Semantics
  • Source
  • Space-language interface
  • Syntax


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