Speech and Gesture in Spatial Language and Cognition Among the Yucatec Mayas
Article first published online: 13 JUN 2011
Copyright © 2011 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Volume 35, Issue 5, pages 905–938, July 2011
How to Cite
Le Guen, O. (2011), Speech and Gesture in Spatial Language and Cognition Among the Yucatec Mayas. Cognitive Science, 35: 905–938. doi: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01183.x
- Issue published online: 7 JUL 2011
- Article first published online: 13 JUN 2011
- Received 22 October 2008; received in revised form 5 October 2010; accepted 26 January 2011
- Spatial cognition;
- Frames of reference;
- Linguistic relativity;
- Yucatec Maya
In previous analyses of the influence of language on cognition, speech has been the main channel examined. In studies conducted among Yucatec Mayas, efforts to determine the preferred frame of reference in use in this community have failed to reach an agreement (Bohnemeyer & Stolz, 2006; Levinson, 2003 vs. Le Guen, 2006, 2009). This paper argues for a multimodal analysis of language that encompasses gesture as well as speech, and shows that the preferred frame of reference in Yucatec Maya is only detectable through the analysis of co-speech gesture and not through speech alone. A series of experiments compares knowledge of the semantics of spatial terms, performance on nonlinguistic tasks and gestures produced by men and women. The results show a striking gender difference in the knowledge of the semantics of spatial terms, but an equal preference for a geocentric frame of reference in nonverbal tasks. In a localization task, participants used a variety of strategies in their speech, but they all exhibited a systematic preference for a geocentric frame of reference in their gestures.