In this chapter we focus on bilinguals’ and monolinguals’ non-verbal perceptions of motion. We assume that the way people perceive motion events is modulated by the languages they know and use.
Whorf (1941/1956, p. 137) claimed that ‘the cue to a certain line of behavior is often given by the analogies of the linguistic formula in which the situation is spoken of, and by which to some degree it is analyzed, classiﬁed and allotted its place in that world’. The implication of this statement is that language modulates the way its speakers categorize and perceive reality in that linguistic structures serve as a tool of directing attention to speciﬁc aspects of reality. According to Whorf, the eﬀect of language can be either permanent, taking place at the deep level of everyday ‘habitual thought’, or temporary, present at the moment of language use. The latter case can be treated as synonymous with Slobin’s (1987) idea of ‘thinking for speaking’, according to which speakers depend on categories introduced in language to partition reality at the moment of speaking, reading, listening, and writing. Both these theoretical positions implicate that there are two levels of organization at which events are represented in people’s minds and at both levels the representations are shaped by language.