Vol. 57 No. 1 (2019)

Spatial Frames of Reference in aṣ-Ṣāniʕ Arabic: Preliminary Observations of Language-to-Cognition Correlation

Letizia Cerqueglini
Tel Aviv University

Published 2019-07-01


  • Frames of Reference,
  • Language-to-Cognition Correlation,
  • aṣ-Ṣāniʕ Arabic


I compare linguistic and cognitive representations of projective spatial relations in traditional aṣ-Ṣāniˁ Arabic (TAA), i.e., application of spatial frames of reference (FoRs). TAA uses all three FoRs in language, selected according to properties of Ground objects (Gs). Absolute FoR is used with non-prototypical arrays and unknown Gs. It is anchored in cardinal directions or prominent landmarks, according to task. G-based FoR selection is missing from cognition, where only the Absolute FoR is applied. Since Bedouin languages use Absolute FoR, recognizing saliency to astronomical directions, I hypothesize the primacy of the astronomically anchored Absolute FoR, as in TAA cognitive bedrock, with respect to other FoRs later developed by language. Deterministic claims on the innovative position of language with respect to cognition are confirmed, yet TAA language-to-cognition mismatch indicates prevention or delay in achieving mutual isomorphism.


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