EU research results


English EN

The Lexicalisation of Perceptual Experience


Previous research suggests there may be underlying regularities in how languages encode perceptual experiences and in how perceptual language evolves over time. This points to the possibility that our cognitive architecture plays a role in constraining the variability in this domain of language. Substantiating this is highly relevant for the cognitive sciences, in light of recent proposals that many aspects of cognition may be more culture-specific than previously thought and that there are few, if any, universals of language. The present project takes up this goal by investigating how basic perceptual experiences (e.g. seeing, hearing, smelling) are encoded by verbs across languages and examining whether cognitive biases shape aspects of this lexical field. First, I will undertake a large-scale typological survey of perception verb lexicons to assess the extent to which they exhibit systematic patterns. Second, I will extend the search for regularities to the phylogenetic dimension, by examining whether perception verb vocabulary evolves along the same constrained pathways across three language families. Third, I will provide the first behavioural evidence to bear on the question of whether recurrent typological patterns in perception verb lexicons have their origins in cognitive biases, by conducting a novel artificial language learning experiment. This interdisciplinary project represents an ideal synergy between my research profile (linguistic typology, language change, psycholinguistics), the supervisor’s (Prof. Asifa Majid, cross-cultural psychology, word meaning) and that of the partner institution supervisor (Prof. Fiona Jordan, evolutionary and linguistic anthropology). Through its novel contribution to lexical typology, cognitive psychology, and language evolution, and by its advanced training in state-of-the-art technical skills, the project offers the ideal opportunity to relaunch my scientific career following a three-year hiatus raising two children.
Leaflet | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, Credit: EC-GISCO, © EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries




Yo10 5dd York North Yorkshire

United Kingdom

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 337 400,64

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 836921


Ongoing project

  • Start date

    28 October 2019

  • End date

    27 October 2025

Funded under:


  • Overall budget:

    € 337 400,64

  • EU contribution

    € 337 400,64

Coordinated by:


United Kingdom