Salience of space and meaning construal in the language of the blind

The blind experience restrictions in their exploration of space because they lack visual input, and visual experience plays a crucial role in developing a representational framework for spatial representation (Silverstone et al 2000). However, specificities of haptic exploration of space result in the blinds' extraordinary experience of the world, and, therefore, it is reasonable to assume that linguistic meaning construal of the blind is likely to show certain bias towards topological elements in composite wholes. This talk will focus on the results of a study of meaning construal of English particle verbs. The aim of the study was to investigate meaning construal in blind subjects by (re-) hypothesizing the results of two previous bodies of research: a) the investigation into semantic determination (lexical vs. topological) in the process of constructing meaning of English particle verbs (PVs) in the sighted (Geld 2011, Geld and Maldonado 2011, and Geld and Letica Krevelj 2011), and b) the investigation into salience and situatedness in the language of the blind (Geld and Stanojević 2006, Geld and Šimunić 2009). The results obtained support the idea that meaning construal is a tremendously dynamic process, as well as provide tentative evidence that the extraordinary perceptual experience of the blind is likely to affect the ways in which they construct linguistic meaning.

Renata Geld is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Zagreb, Croatia and visiting scholar at Case Western Reserve University.

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