Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Psychology

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Amit Almor

Abstract

Previous research has linked the concept of number and other ordinal series to space via a spatially-oriented number line. Other researchers have shown that language as well may have an underlying spatial representation, though this seems to be tied to visual scene recognition and production and is potentially an idiosyncratic effect of a limited set of concrete verbs. In this dissertation, employing a novel method that measures the underlying spatial biases of actors in transitive sentences, I show that findings from previous studies showing a relationship between transitivity and space reflect an interaction between word order in the sentence, order in the causative structure, and space (specifically, lateral space). This syntax-space effect is based in manual action, when stimuli occur within hand-space, and is most strongly observed when responses are made with the left hand. These latter observations indicate roles of both hemispheric processing and manual biases in the mental representations of objects appearing in space, perhaps serving as a function of their potential for action. Thus, syntax appears to be at least partially grounded in both action and space.

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