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SALTA : Presentation

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Webmaster Alice VITTRANT


The aim of the project SALTA is to investigate the conceptual domain of motion in space, with a focus on structural and functional asymmetries in the expression of path of motion, including asymmetries linked to dynamic deixis, boundary-crossing and verticality, through comparative studies of more than 30 typologically and genealogically varied languages.


We thus aim to :
  • (i) provide the first comprehensive corpus of spatial asymmetries with data from genealogically and areally varied languages,
  • (ii) assess the role of universal vs language-specific patterns in spatial asymmetries and build a typology of spatial asymmetries,
  • (iii) gain insights into the factors that determine and constrain spatial asymmetries in language.

Organization in Work packages

We focus on asymmetries in the linguistic expression of spatial scenes. Asymmetries are pervasive, and they are located at various levels: source vs goal, me vs you, top vs bottom, front vs back, etc. Are they always ‘inscribed’ in language structure? We compare not only analyses of well-known languages (for which ample data are available, including diachronic data, as well as secondary literature) but also of a wide typological and geographical spectrum of languages, with the twin objective of (a) mapping the typological specificities of spatial semantics across languages and (b) contributing to the description of languages which have not yet been sufficiently described, by building corpora and databases allowing for comparisons and generalizations.
In order to meet these objectives, our project is structured in three workpackages, with specific but interrelated goals:
  • WP1: Language structure: a typological survey of spatial asymmetries in languages, with varying depth and width, with an emphasis on non-Indo-European languages

  • WP2: Asymmetries in Language Use: an empirical assessment of the effect of these asymmetries on language use, on the basis of tests run on a subset of languages. This is possible only with data, and the data collection must be strictly supervised

  • WP3: Methodology and data: visual elicitation tool ensuring replicability, procedure for spontaneous data collection, cross-linguistic database.

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