With the Future Behind Them: Convergent Evidence From Aymara Language and Gesture in the Crosslinguistic Comparison of Spatial Construals of Time

Bibliographic Collection: 
MOCA Reference, APE
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Núñez, Rafael E.; Sweetser, Eve
Year of Publication: 2006
Journal: Cognitive Science
Volume: 30
Pagination: 401–450
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1551-6709
Keywords: Aymara, Conceptual metaphor, Conceptual systems, Embodied cognition, Gestures, Inferential organization, Spatial construals of time

Cognitive research on metaphoric concepts of time has focused on differences between moving Ego and moving time models, but even more basic is the contrast between Ego- and temporal-reference-point models. Dynamic models appear to be quasi-universal cross-culturally, as does the generalization that in Ego-reference-point models, FUTURE IS IN FRONT OF EGO and PAST IS IN BACK OF EGO. The Aymara language instead has a major static model of time wherein FUTURE IS BEHIND EGO and PAST IS IN FRONT OF EGO; linguistic and gestural data give strong confirmation of this unusual culture-specific cognitive pattern. Gestural data provide crucial information unavailable to purely linguistic analysis, suggesting that when investigating conceptual systems both forms of expression should be analyzed complementarily. Important issues in embodied cognition are raised: how fully shared are bodily grounded motivations for universal cognitive patterns, what makes a rare pattern emerge, and what are the cultural entailments of such patterns?

DOI: 10.1207/s15516709cog0000_62