Into space and ut i rymden – A Corpus-Based Image-Schematic Analysis of Prepositional Constructions in English and Swedish

Kajsa Törmä, Umeå Universitet


While researching the linguistics of outer space, I have observed an intriguing difference between my research language (English) and my mother tongue (Swedish). For example, in English, people travel into space, whereas in Swedish, they travel ut i rymden (Lit. out in(to) space). English and Swedish are two closely related languages, yet they construe motion from earth to outer space using different prepositional constructions. Furthermore, the prepositional constructions highlight different parts of the motion at hand. In the English construction, the focus is on the destination (outer space), whereas the point of departure (Earth) is more present in the Swedish construction.

This presentation relies on English data collected from Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and Swedish data is collected from Korp. The aim is to account for the different prepositional constructions used in English and Swedish when talking about motion from earth to outer space. The most common ones are into and ut i. In addition to these the prepositions to/till and toward(s)/mot are also used and they combine in various ways with the particles off, up/upp, and out/ut.

These different prepositional constructions construe both outer space and the motion towards it in different ways. In this presentation, the different prepositional constructions are analyzed through the theoretical lens of image schema (Johnson, 1987). Motion inherently invokes the source-path-goal image schema, as “our lives are filled with paths that connect our spatial world” (Johnson, 1987: 113). However, different prepositional constructions can cause or focus to shift between the elements in this schema. As for the present study, some prepositional constructions are focused firmly on the GOAL, some invoke the SOURCE either explicitly or implicitly, and some focus only a very specific part of the PATH. In addition to the SOURCE-PATH-GOAL schema, some of the constructions also invoke the schema of CONTAINMENT. Both earth and outer space can be construed as CONTAINERS, which one can enter and exit, despite there not being a clear physical boundary between them to cross.

In summary, motion between earth and outer space is construed differently both within the languages at hand and between them. The focus shift depending on the prepositional construction used, and this contributes to different perspectives on earth, outer space, and the motion between the two.



Borin, Lars; Forsberg, Markus & Roxendal, Johan. (2012). Korp – the corpus infrastructure of Språkbanken. Proceedings of LREC 2012. Istanbul: ELRA, pages 474–478.

Davies, Mark. (2008-) The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). Available online at

Johnson, M. (1987). The body in the mind: The bodily basis of meaning, imagination, and reason. University of Chicago Press.

Vocabulary content rather than size predicts sex/gender before the age of three years

Mikkel Wallentin, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, Aarhus University / Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University Hospital / Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University
Fabio Trecca, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, Aarhus University / TrygFonden’s Centre for Child Research, Aarhus University

Does sex/gender matter for language acquisition? Small female advantages in vocabulary size are well-documented. Girls, on average, begin to speak slightly earlier than boys (Bleses, et al., 2008; Wallentin, 2020), and small sex/gender differences in mean vocabulary size have been shown consistently across languages, with girls outperforming boys on measures of receptive and productive vocabulary from a young age (Berglund, et al., 2005; Bleses, et al., 2008; Fenson, et al., 1994; Frank, et al., 2021; Simonsen, et al., 2013). In this study, however, we show that children’s early vocabulary composition is a significantly better predictor of sex/gender than size.

We conducted classification analysis on word production from children (12-36 months, n =39,553) acquiring 26 different languages, using data from the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories Words and Sentences (MB-CDI: WS)(Braginsky, et al., 2020; Fenson, et al., 2007; Frank, et al., 2017), available from Wordbank (

Children’s sex/gender was classified above chance level in 22 out of 26 languages. Classification accuracy was significantly higher than for models based on vocabulary size and increased as a function of sample size. Classification accuracy also increased as a function of age and peaked at 30 months, reaching accuracy levels observed in studies of adult word use.

A sex/gender score was computed for each word in a language based on classification coefficients. The higher the score, the more predictive a word is of sex/gender. We used semantic/grammatical category tags from the Wordbank database to predict the sex/gender scores for individual words. Within languages, several categories were found to predict the sex/gender score. In 24 out of 26 language samples, the category Clothing significantly predicted sex/gender score with a negative parameter estimate, indicating the category being used more by girls. In 23 out of 26 language samples, the category Vehicles significantly predicted sex/gender score with a positive parameter estimate, indicating the category being produced more by boys.

Across languages, a mixed-effects analysis with category as fixed-effects and language sample as random effects showed that sex/gender scores were significantly predicted by the 3 categories Animals, Body parts, Clothing, Connecting words, Games/Routines, Toys and Pronouns, all of which were significantly more likely to be produced by girls; and Outside/Places and Vehicles, which were more likely to be produced by boys.

These differences in vocabulary are indicative of biocultural differences in the lifeworld of children and may themselves cause further differences in development.



Berglund, E., Eriksson, M., & Westerlund, M. (2005). Communicative skills in relation to gender, birth order, childcare and socioeconomic status in 18-month-old children. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 46, 485-491, 10.1111/j.1467- 9450.2005.00480.x

Bleses, D., Vach, W., Slott, M., Wehberg, S., Thomsen, P., Madsen, T. O., & Basbøll, H. (2008). The Danish Communicative Developmental Inventories: validity and main developmental trends. Journal of Child Language, 35, 1-19, 10.1017/S0305000907008574

Braginsky, M., Yurovsky, D., Frank, M., & Kellier, D. (2020). Wordbankr: Accessing the Wordbank Database. . In. R package version 0.3.1.,

Fenson, L., Dale, P. S., Reznick, J. S., Bates, E., Thal, D. J., & Pethick, S. J. (1994). Variability in early communicative development. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59, 1-173; discussion 174-185

Fenson, L., Marchman, V. A., Thal, D., Dale, P., Reznick, J. S., & Bates, E. (2007). MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories: User’s Guide and Technical Manual. (2nd edition ed.). Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing Co.

Frank, M. C., Braginsky, M., Yurovsky, D., & Marchman, V. A. (2017). Wordbank: an open repository for developmental vocabulary data. Journal of Child Language, 44, 677- 694, 10.1017/S0305000916000209,

Frank, M. C., Braginsky, M., Yurovsky, D., & Marchman, V. A. (2021). Variability and consistency in early language learning: The Wordbank project. Cambridge MA: MIT Press

Simonsen, H. G., Kristoffersen, K. E., Bleses, D., Wehberg, S., & Jørgensen, R. N. (2013). The Norwegian Communicative Development Inventories: Reliability, main developmental trends and gender differences. First Language, 34, 3-23,

Wallentin, M. (2020). Gender differences in language are small but matter for disorders. In R. Lanzenberger, G. S. Kranz & I. Savic (Eds.), Handbook of Clinical Neurology (Vol. 175, pp. 81-102): Elsevier,

Text-based easy language research: Perspectives on developing easy Finnish guidelines

Idastiina Valtasalmi, Tampere University


Easy Finnish (selkokieli) is an adapted language form that is made easier in terms of words, structure, and content (Selkokeskus 2021). It is designed to make information accessible for people who find standard Finnish too difficult to read and understand. Easy Finnish has been used since the 1980s, and the first guidebooks were published in the 1990s (see Leskelä 2021 for a review). Guidelines have been developed over the years, and today, criteria for basic-level easy Finnish are presented in Selkomittari, a practical tool for assessing the language and layout of easy Finnish texts (Selkokeskus 2018). Despite being widely used, most guidelines for easy Finnish are practical writing instructions based on experience rather than scientific research. This presentation focuses on text-based perspectives to easy language research and the use of corpora in developing easy language theory.

Since the 2010s, text-based research approaches have introduced new perspectives to easy language. Corpus studies have been used to empirically describe the properties of easy languages in countries, where such corpora are available. In Finland, easy language corpora include newspaper texts from Selkosanomat/Selkouutiset and Leija (University of Helsinki 2017), and news texts from Yle news archive in easy-to-read Finnish (Yleisradio). The corpora are currently used in several ongoing studies. In other European countries, corpus analyses have been conducted, for example, to study the properties of easy German (see, e.g., Rink 2020) and to compare the linguistic properties of easy-to-read and standard Dutch newspaper texts (Vandeghinste & Bulté 2019).

This presentation will focus on the effects that easy Finnish guidelines may or may not have on basic-level easy Finnish. How does language change, when certain linguistic forms are recommended as easy-to-read variants, and others are restricted? The topic is discussed based on the results of a published research article on the meanings and use of the word ihminen (‘human, person’) in easy-Finnish newspaper texts (Valtasalmi 2021). Discussion will also include observations made during ongoing research.



Leskelä, Leealaura (2021). Easy language in Finland. In Camilla Lindholm & Ulla Vanhatalo (Eds.). Handbook of easy languages in Europe. 149–190.

Frank & Timme: Berlin. Rink, Isabel (2020). Rechtskommunikation und Barrierefreiheit. Zur Übersetzung juristischer Informations- und Interaktionstexte in Leichte Sprache (Vol. 1). Berlin, Frank & Timme.

Selkokeskus (2018). Selkomittari. Selkokeskus, Kehitysvammaliitto. Retrieved from

Selkokeskus (2021). Guidelines and instructions. Retrieved from

University of Helsinki (2017). Corpus of Finnish Magazines and Newspapers from the 1990s and 2000s, Version 2 [text corpus]. Kielipankki. Retrieved from

Valtasalmi, Idastiina (2021). Selkoa ihmisestä: Ihminen-sanan merkitykset ja käyttö selkokielisissä sanomalehtiteksteissä. Sananjalka, 63(63).

Vandeghinste, Vincent & Bulté Bram (2019). Linguistic proxies of readability: Comparing easy-to-read and regular newspaper Dutch. Computational Linguistics in the Netherlands Journal, 9, 81–100. Retrieved from

Yleisradio. Yle News Archive Easy-to-read Finnish 2011-2018, scrambled, Korp [text corpus]. Kielipankki. Retrieved from

Motion events in Swedish and French: Linguistic expression and beyond

Nataliia Vesnina, Aarhus University


Motion is omnipresent on our lives. It is something that we can observe and experience in the same way regardless of the language we speak. It has been noted, however, that languages differ with respect to how the concepts around spatial relations are lexicalized (Talmy 1991; Pourcel 2009; Slobin 2004; Zlatev et al. 2021). In particular, it has been claimed that Romance languages (and French in particular) are restrictive with regards to expressing manner of motion in tight telic constructions (Hickmann et al., 2017). French, unlike Swedish, has also been said to be a ‘lowmanner-salient language’ (Slobin, 2006) and a low-path-salient language (Ibarretxe-Antuñano 2009).

In this study, six short video stimuli presenting as stories and including various motion situations were used to elicit narratives from speakers of French and Swedish (20 participants in each group) which then were closely analyzed using Holistic Spatial Semantics (Blomberg, 2014) as a theoretical framework. The goal was not only to establish how languages differ with regards to strategies the speakers use to present motion events, but also to take a closer look at commonalities behind the two structurally divergent linguistic repertoires. A special attention was given to meanings that are “covertly expressed” (Blomberg, 2014). The term “covert expression” refers to meanings that are not explicitly coded but, nonetheless, implied by the speaker as stemming from the shared understanding of (a) the situation described or (b) knowledge of the world. Including covert expression into the analysis helps to overcome the notorious Pragmatics-Semantics divide and analyze how meanings are shared across languages regardless of whether they are linguistically coded or not.

In line with Pourcel & Kopecka (2005) the results show that French has low tolerance to semantic redundancy, hence frequent omission of linguistic unites encoding path, landmark and manner “inherent to an event” (Akita, 2017). As well as that, French and Swedish demonstrate different syntactic strategies for expressing complex motion situations (e.g. chaining VPs in French and complex paths expressed through a chain of particles/adverbs in Swedish). At the same time, preference for lexicalizing manner of motion inherent to the event over the concomitant one (Akita, 2017) is less observable in French which seems to rely more heavily on contextual and general knowledge and demonstrates a tendency for supplying information on manner of motion that cannot be inferred. These findings leave one to wonder how much of what is typically called “pragmatic inference” is universal.



Akita, K. (2017). The typology of manner expressions. A preliminary look. In Motion and Space across Languages (pp. 460). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Blomberg, J. (2014). Motion in Language and Experience: Actual and Non-actual motion in Swedish, French and Thai. In.

Hickmann, M., Engemann, H., Soroli, E., Hendriks, H., & Vincent, C. (2017). Expressing and categorizing motion in French and English. In Motion and Space across Languages (pp. 460). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Ibarretxe-Antuñano, I. (2009). Path Salience in Motion Events. In J. Guo, E. Lieven, N. Budwig, S. Ervin-Tripp, K. Nakamura, & S. Ozcaliskan (Eds.), Crosslinguistic approaches to the psychology of language: research in the tradition of Dan Isaac Slobin (pp. 403-414). New York: Psychology Press.

Pourcel, S. (2009). Relativistic Application of Thinking for Speaking. In D. I. Slobin & J. Guo (Eds.), Crosslinguistic approaches to the psychology of language: research in the tradition of Dan Isaac Slobin (pp. 493-503). New York: Psychology Press.

Pourcel, S., & Kopecka, A. (2005). Motion expression in French: typological diversity. Durham & Newcastle working papers in linguistics, 11, 139-153.

Slobin, D. I. (2004). The many ways to search for a frog: Linguistic typology and the expression of motion events. In S. Strömqvist & L. Verhoeven (Eds.), Relating events in narrative (Vol. 2, pp. 219-257). Mahawah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Slobin, D. I. (2006). What makes manner of motion salient? In M. Hickmann & S. Robert (Eds.), Space in languages: linguistic systems and cognitive categories (pp. 361). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Talmy, L. (1991). Path to Realization: A Typology of Event Conflation. Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, 17(1), 480. Doi:10.3765/bls.v17i0.1620

Zlatev, J., Blomberg, J., Devylder, S., Naidu, V., & van de Weijer, J. (2021). Motion event descriptions in Swedish, French, Thai and Telugu: a study in post-Talmian motion event typology. Acta linguistica hafniensia, 53(1), 58-90. Doi:10.1080/03740463.2020.1865692

“We will do this by taking the lead”. A linguistic analysis of the negotiation on political identity

Anna Vogel, Stockholm University


The political role of the nonprofit sector in the Swedish welfare state is currently being negotiated. Since the introduction of New Public Management, nonprofit organizations are expected to play a greater part in welfare reforms (Lundberg, 2020). However, Swedish nonprofit organizations providing welfare services, e.g. schools and health clinics, form a contested issue (Johansson et al. 2015).

My interdisciplinary study studied this negotiation on a local plane, more specifically within a nonprofit organization. The purpose of my study was to investigate the negotiation regarding identity in Save the Children Sweden, where I was an embedded researcher during the timespan of my research (February 2020-February 2022). To reveal the negotiation on political identity that took place underneath the surface of the debate on welfare services, I operationalized my purpose into three research questions: RQ#1) How were “we” described? RQ#2) What metaphors were used about the organization? RQ#3) What stories were told about the organization’s origin?

Departing from Busse (1997) and Halliday (2014) I analyzed all “we” about the organization to see what the pronoun referred to, and what kind of verb (material, relational or mental) it was connected to in the clause. I then used MIPVU-methods (Nacey et al. 2019) to analyze metaphors, and at last, by the help of narrative analysis (Greimas 1966, Labov 1972), I searched for stories. My results on RQ#1showed that advocates of the idea that Save the Children Sweden would perform welfare service used “we” in an inclusive way about the organization, and mostly in connection to action verbs (material processes). The opponents of the idea of welfare services instead used “we” both in an inclusive and exclusive way – either embracing all Swedish citizens/the whole Swedish civil society, or only referring to a group of members of Save the Children Sweden. No certain verb type stood out, instead the use was balanced. My interpretation was that the advocates cared about its brand and wished to appear potent, while the opponents rather stressed how the organization belonged to a greater context and gave attention to the member federation. Regarding RQ#2, the advocates used metaphors relating to SOURCE-PATH-GOAL, highlighting their determinedness, while the opponents instead used metaphors relating to PERCEPTION (e.g. “see”), thereby giving their analytical capacity prominence. Concerning RQ#3, the advocates made use of a strong narrative, legitimizing the idea of welfare services, whereas the opponents lacked any such narrative.



Busse, Dietrich (1997). Das Eigene und das Fremde. Annotationen zur Funktion und Wirkung einer diskurssemantischen Grundfigur. In Matthias Jung, Martin Wengeler, & Karin Böke (Eds.), Die Sprache des Migrationsdiskurses. Das Reden über Ausländer in Medien, Politik und Alltag (pp. 17-35). Westdeutscher Verlag.

Greimas, Algirdas. J. (1966). Sémantique structurale: recherche de méthode. Hachette.

Halliday, M.A.K. (2014), Introduction to functional grammar. Revised by Christiand M.I.M. Matthiessen. 4th ed. London and New York: Routledge.

Johansson, Håkan, Arvidsson, Malin, & Johansson, Staffan (2015). Welfare mix as a contested terrain: Political positions on government – non-profit relations at national and local levels in a social democratic welfare state. Voluntas, 26(5), 1601-1619.

Labov, William (1972). Language in the inner city. Studies in the black English vernacular. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lundberg, Erik (2020). Toward a new social contract? The participation of civil society in Swedish welfare policymaking 1958-2012. Voluntas, 31, 1371-1384.

Nacey, Susan, Greve, Linda, & Johansson Falck, Marlene (2019). Linguistic metaphor identification in Scandinavian. In Susan Nacey, Aletta G. Dorst, Tina Krennmayr, & W. Gudrun Reijnerse (Eds.), Metaphor identification in multiple languages: MIPVU around the world (pp. 138-158). John Benjamins.