Three experiments provide evidence that the conceptualization of moving objects and events is influenced by one's native language, consistent with linguistic relativity theory. Monolingual English speakers and bilingual Spanish/English speakers tested in an English-speaking context performed better than monolingual Spanish speakers and bilingual Spanish/English speakers tested in a Spanish-speaking context at sorting novel, animated objects and events into categories on the basis of manner of motion, an attribute that is prominently marked in English but not in Spanish. In contrast, English and Spanish speakers performed similarly at classifying on the basis of path, an attribute that is prominently marked in both languages. Similar results were obtained regardless of whether categories were labeled by novel words or numbered, suggesting that an English-speaking tendency to focus on manner of motion is a general phenomenon and not limited to word learning. Effects of age of acquisition of English were also observed on the performance of bilinguals, with early bilinguals performing similarly in the 2 language contexts and later bilinguals showing greater contextual variation.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/christian_meissner/68/