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  • Suitner et al 2020

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Spatial agency bias and word order flexibility: a comparison of 14 European languages

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  • Caterina Suitner
  • Anne Maass
  • Eduardo Navarrete
  • Magdalena Formanowicz
  • Boyka Bratanova
  • Carmen Cervone
  • Eemeli Hakoköngäs
  • Toon Kuppens
  • Eleni Lipourli
  • Tamara Rakić
  • Andrea Scatolon
  • Catia P. Teixeira
  • Zhenlan Wang
  • Maria Pedro Sobral
  • Antonin Carrier
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/05/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Applied Psycholinguistics
Issue number3
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)657-671
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date10/02/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The Spatial Agency Bias predicts that people whose native language is rightward written will predominantly envisage action along the same direction. Two mechanisms contribute jointly to this asymmetry: (a) an embodied process related to writing/reading; (b) a linguistic regularity according to which sentence subjects (typically the agent) tend to precede objects (typically the recipient). Here we test a novel hypothesis in relation to the second mechanism, namely that this asymmetry will be most pronounced in languages with rigid word-order. A pre-registered study on 14 European languages (n=420) varying in word-order flexibility confirmed a rightward bias in drawings of interactions between two people (agent and recipient). This bias was weaker in more flexible languages, confirming that embodied and linguistic features of language interact in producing it.