Laura Cuthbertson

Temporal Conceptualisation in Present-Day Spoken English and Corpus-Based Methods

ErstbetreuerProf. Dr. Dr. h. c. Christian Mair
ZweitbetreuerProf. Dr. Stefan Pfänder

There exists a close cognitive relationship between space and time, evidenced in language by the often parallel surface structures of spatio-temporal constructions. The focus of this project will be the cognitive coordinate system used to locate a target event (TE) relative to a reference point (RP) in the past, present or future on the mental timeline; such relations are conveyed by temporal frames of reference (t-FoRs). More specifically, deictic t-FoRs are the object of interest, which are essentially analogous, although not entirely reducible, to relative spatial FoRs used for the location of objects in space (s-FoRs; Levinson 1996). This stands in contrast with the 'parasitic' nature of time proposed by cognitive metaphor theory (CMT; Lakoff and Johnson 1980). The project aims to develop a taxonomy and usage-frequency of temporal conceptualisations based on spoken, conversational English. The British National Corpus (BNC) will act as the source for all corpus-based research and will be complemented by a replication of Boroditsky’s (2001) behavioural experiment. In doing so, the way in which humans conceptualise such an abstract entity as time, its dependence on space and how these concepts are organised on a cognitive level can be explored. The role of frequency effects, such as correspondence with the complexity of the relations encoded, and potential variation across registers will be examined. A quantitative analysis will investigate the strength of attraction of the conceptual categories (space and time) to polysemous temporal constructions, as well as whether function (e.g., length of the event, spatial vs. temporal modification, metaphorical perspective, etc.) can act as predictors of form.


Boroditsky, L. (2001) Does language shape thought?: Mandarin and English speakers' conceptions of time, Cognitive psychology 43(1), 1-22

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980) Metaphors We Live By, Chicago: University of Chicago Publishing

Levinson, S.C. (1996) Language and space, Annual Review of Anthropology 25(1), 353-382

DisziplinEnglish Studies
Forschungsrichtungcorpus linguistics, cognitive linguistics, psycholinguistics
SchlüsselbegriffeFrames of reference, temporal conceptualisation, CMT