Language and Cognition Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
 by Gertie Hoymann

Time in Space

How do different languages and cultures conceptualise time? This question is part of a broader set of questions about how humans come to represent and reason about abstract entities – things we cannot see or touch. For example, how do we come to represent and reason about abstract domains like justice, ideas, kinship, morality, or politics? There are two aspects of this project: 1. Time arrangement tasks: There are two non-linguistic tasks to assess the way people arrange time either as temporal progressions expressed in picture cards or done using small tokens or points in space to represent points in time. These non-linguistic tasks should be repeated with multiple participants as explained below. Responses are to be noted down on coding sheets and photographed and/or videotaped. 2. Time & space language inventory: There is a time-language & knowledge inventory (at the end of this field manual entry) which is intended to discover and document the linguistic coding of time and its relation to space, as well as the cultural knowledge structures related to time. The goal of this task is to investigate how people conceptualise time, particularly with respect to spatial reference frames, literacy and other cultural factors.


You will require (i) stimulus cards, (ii) poker chips, pebbles or some similar tokens (see below), (iii) coding sheets, (iv) a compass.


This entry has been superceded by the 2008 version.

How to cite this resource?

Boroditsky, L., Gaby, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2007). Time in space. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field manual volume 10 (pp. 59-80). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.468721.