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Dernière modification : 27 avril 2015

Space, Time and Existence : Typological, cognitive and philosophical viewpoints


19 September 2013

University of Split, Croatia


Anne Carlier (University Lille 3 ; CNRS UMR STL, France)
Laure Sarda (CNRS-Lattice ; ENS, Paris, France - Porteuse de projet TransferS)
Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israël)

Space, time and their relationship to existence are currently the subject of considerable research effort in the various disciplines of the humanities, since they correspond to fundamental areas of human cognition and because their encoding in the languages of the world is characterized by an important typological diversity. Both in analytic philosophy and in linguistics, the notion of existence is related to spatio-temporal anchoring : to exist is defined as « being located in time and space ».

In philosophical research, this initial amalgam of space and time, as it was practiced in line with the work of Davidson, has been challenged.

It has been argued that time is a more crucial dimension than space in existential predication, both in philosophy (Fernald 2000) and in linguistics (Danon-Boileau, 1989, 1992). In support of the predominance of the temporal dimension, it has to be noticed that in most languages any proposition is necessarily marked with respect to time, through grammatical inflection of the verb, whereas the expression of spatial localization is optional and is normally expressed by means of the lexicon.

Conversely, spatial location has been considered as more fundamental than temporal location for existential predication for some types of entities. This approach can be motivated on the basis of the theory of spatio-temporal entities elaborated by Zemach (1979). In his typology of spatio-temporal entities, Zemach distinguishes four possible ontologies, corresponding to four different conceptions of the extension of spatial and temporal entities : (i) events, such as « an explosion », discontinuous in time and space, (ii) things, such as « my dog », « this chair », continuous in time but discontinuous in space, (iii) processes, such as « the bank crisis » or « the Cold War », are continuous in the spatial dimension but discontinuous in time, and (iv) types, such as « the tax payer », which are continuous in both dimensions. He shows that entities which are encoded in the language as things are continuous in the temporal dimension, but discontinuous with respect to space. In other words, at least with respect to things, spatial location has an individuating role, whereas time does not.

In linguistic research, the predominance of the spatial dimension in existential predication has also been emphasized. To exist amounts to « being there », which is reflected in the fact that the basic existential predicates in most languages contain a reference to space (French : il ya, avoir lieu ; English : there are ; Italian : ci sono ; German da-sein, ...). Research in language typology (Talmy, 2000) and psycholinguistics (Slobin, 2004) not only has corroborated the importance of the spatial dimension (Kuteva &amp ; Sinha 1994 ; Haspelmath 1997), but has focused in particular upon the variability with which these components are realized through language and upon the implications of such variability on a cognitive level (Slobin, 2006). With respect to motion verbs, extensive research has been devoted to the typological distinction, established by Talmy, between verb-framed and sattelite-framed languages.

The division is based on whether motion verbs lexicalize or grammaticalize the direction or path of motion, typically with minimal indication of the manner of motion (e.g. French : il est entré dans la maison [en courant]), or whether they focus on the manner of motion, with the path of motion being relegated to a secondary element or satellite (e.g. English : He ran into the house).

This workshop intends to offer an original contribution to the topic by bringing together researchers from different disciplines - analytic philosophy, linguistics and psycholinguistics - whose viewpoints and methods of research, experimental or more speculative, may be mutually illuminating.




  • 9:00 - 9:30 - Denis Creissels (University Lyon 2) : Existential predication in typological perspective
  • 9:30 - 10:00 - Katia Paykin (University Lille 3, CNRS UMR STL) : Linguistic expression of existence for weather phenomena : location inseparable from movement
  • 10:00 - 10:30 - Sroka, Kazimierz A. (Universituy of Gdansk) : Location as the third basic category for describing textual entities and its relevance to semantics and pragmatics
  • 10:30 - 11:00 - Laure Sarda (CNRS-UMR Lattice) : Space/time asymmetry in anchoring new referents : a corpus-based typology of verbs used for predication of existence


  • 11:30 - 12:00 - Bert CAPPELLE (University Lille 3 ; CNRS-UMR STL) : Raised grounds in Dutch and English : Common underlying semantics
  • 12:00 - 12:30 - Michel Aurnague (University Toulouse 2) : Anaphoricity and polarity of « dynamic » spatial PPs : two properties of motion constructions in French, in the light of the verbs’ semantics
  • 12:30 - 13:00 - Efstathia Soroli (Université Lille 3, UMR-CNRS STL) : Seeing, Thinking and Speaking across languages
  • 13:00 - 13:30 - Michaelis, Susanne Maria (MPI Leipzig) : Motion constructions in contact languages : cross-linguistic evidence from APiCS


  • 15:30 - 16:00 - Benjamin Fagard (CNRS-UMR Lattice ; Paris, France), Alexandru Mardale (Université Paris 7, France), Jordan Zlatev (Centre for Cognitive Semiotics, Lund University, Sweden), Massimo Cerruti (University of Torino, Italy), Johan Blomberg (Centre for Cognitive Semiotics, Lund University, Sweden) : Types, areal contact and genetic relationship : Romance, Germanic and Slavonic languages as a test case for Talmy’s typology
  • 16:00 - 16:30 - Anne Carlier (University of Lille 3, UMR-CNRS STL) : Concluding remarks : Philosophical, typological, cognitive viewpoints on existential predication
  • 16:30 - 17:00 - Discussion


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