Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Croft Institute for International Studies

First Advisor

Amy Hsieh

Relational Format



The following thesis is a domain-centered study that examines the effects of second language (L2) learning on mental representations of time in native English learners of L2 Mandarin Chinese. The design of this study attempts to observe the effects of the existence and use of spatiotemporal metaphors in Mandarin Chinese on L2 learners of the language. The methodology used for data collection includes a three-dimensional pointing paradigm—a partially language-independent task—which attempts to isolate cognitive behavior. The task requires participants to answer questions (by pointing) regarding space and time on imaginary axes in front of their person using their own fist as the reference point in their answer; this precludes any language effects caused by having to use language in completing experimental tasks. The participants of the study include advanced L2 learners of Mandarin Chinese as the focus experimental group and English native speakers as the control group. Results confirm the hypothesis that learning a second language does influence speakers' mental representations of time; while English native speakers significantly preferred the transverse axis in virtually all cases, L2 Mandarin learners displayed a preference for both the transverse and sagittal axes, without significantly distinguishing between the two. This study adds to previous literature in the field, providing evidence in support of the linguistic relativity theory.


A thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for completion of the Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies from the Croft Institute for International Studies and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Included in

Linguistics Commons



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