Spatial Language, Spatial Memory and Spatial Perspective Taking in Japanese and English
Speakers of different languages have essentially the same vision and action systems, yet spatial language exhibits considerable cross-linguistic variation. In six experiments, varying both object location and relative positions of speaker and hearer, we tested spatial demonstrative choice and the influence of demonstratives on object-location memory in speakers of languages with purportedly very different demonstrative systems – Japanese and English. Results reveal that the Japanese demonstrative system is structured in terms of both egocentric (interactional) space and space near a hearer. English speakers show similar but weaker effects of hearer position. We also show that demonstratives at encoding can affect memory for object location, with specific terms triggering processing of object location from the perspective of a conspecific. Overall the results point to a unifying framework across spatial terms and across languages where demonstratives first require choice of spatial reference frame prior to the application of a range of routines to select the appropriate term in a given context.