Cross-generational differences in linguistic and cognitive spatial frames of reference in Negev Arabic

Letizia Cerqueglini*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper analyses the impact of landscape on linguistic and cognitive spatial frames of reference (FoRs) in three generations of speakers of Negev Arabic (NA): Traditional (TNA), Middle (MNA), and Young (YNA). When locating one object (the figure) with respect to a reference object (the ground), TNA strategies rely on pragmatic properties attributed to the ground (e.g. familiarity) and to axial constraints (alignment between figure, ground, and the observer’s visual field). When the ground is familiar and asymmetrical, intrinsic FoR is preferred; when it is familiar and symmetrical, a Speech Act Participant (SAP)-landmark strategy is preferred if figure, ground, and observer are aligned, otherwise absolute FoR is used; when the ground is unfamiliar, absolute FoR is preferred. Absolute FoR is not used in MNA, while in egocentric reference, a relative reflection strategy is used. MNA applies right–left distinctions using reflection and rotation strategies. YNA uses intrinsic FoR and relative reflection without predicable rules; absolute FoR and SAP-landmark FoR are absent; and the right–left axis applies to all ground objects. All generations apply geocentric FoRs in non-linguistic tasks within the Negev region, but outside this region, each used different strategies. Negev landscapes are fundamental constituents of NA FoRs across generations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-128
Number of pages16
JournalLinguistics Vanguard
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Bedouin Arabic
  • cross-generational analysis
  • frames of reference
  • sociotopography
  • spatial language and cognition


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