editore: Pisa University Press
In 2003, S.C. Levinson defined spatial Frames of Reference as semantic and cognitive strategies used to project coordinate systems onto spatial arrays, in order to conceptualize and linguistically describe angular relations. Since then, several descriptions of referential styles worldwide have been produced, mostly focused on the language-to-cognition correlation, within the dispute between Universalism and Determinism. Such an intellectual dichotomy is being overtaken by historical and structuralist approaches to spatial semantics and cognition. Since all three Frames of Reference are in use among the elderly aṣ-Ṣāniˁ speakers (Negev Nomadic Arabic), this work accounts for the strategies underlying the distribution of the Relative Frame of Reference, and of its sub-category ‘Aligned Field’, monitoring the collapse of the Aligned Field from the language of the elderly to that of the young generation. Thanks to culture-specific stimuli, the experiments reveal that elderly aṣ-Ṣāniˁ speakers use object-specific referential and prepositional strategies, based on a culture-specific and domain-related ontology of entities. Young people, acquainted to sedentary life, urban spaces and objects of modern life, do not retain the old ontology, developing a different set of referential strategies and restructuring the prepositional system. This study shows how the cultural dimension shapes the spatial experience and the embodiment of spatial grammar, proposing a radically Relativistic approach. The supposedly universal mutual independence of ‘what’ and ‘where’ concepts should be re-discussed on a cultural basis, since the nature and effects of the relationship between language and cognition may represent themselves cross-cultural variables.