Language and Cognition: The Exploration of Spatial Description in English and Pashto Languages

Nasir Mehmood, Azhar Habib

  • Nasir Mehmood National University of Modern Languages-Islamabad, Pakistan
  • Azhar Habib National University of Modern Languages-Islamabad, Pakistan
Keywords: Language, cognition, spatial description, referential systems, conversational analysis


This article explores the relation between language and cognition by examining the spatial description in English and Pashto. The study is descriptive and exploratory in nature. It identifies how Pashto and English speakers respond when they are asked to guide a stranger to some location, and which systems of reference they use to indicate directions and locations. For this purpose, firstly, the conversation of four speakers was recorded in Pashto and English and then transcribed and analysed by applying the rules of conversational analysis. After analysing the data, it has been found that all four speakers predominantly used the egocentric and intrinsic codes of spatial reference whereas absolute system of reference was rarely used. These findings strengthen the view that speakers are inclined to use objects in the environment as well as egocentric system associated with the speakers’ point of view. Moreover, the speakers’ responses are depended on the physical and situational context and independent of the languages they use. The study concludes with the understanding that there may be universal features demonstrable in the spatial domain.