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Placing spatial language and cognition in context through an investigation of Bininj Kunwok navigation talk

Cialone, Claudia

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The broad questions asked in this PhD thesis are: How do Bininj Kunwok people from Western Arnhem Land navigate in the bush? Why do they navigate that way, and how do they verbalize their orientation systems? The motivation behind these questions is to expand our understanding of the way humans rely on and use language during spatial navigation. Spatial navigation is more than a decision-making, memory, and planning process. One argument of this thesis is that navigation is geographically as...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorCialone, Claudia
dc.date.accessioned2019-06-29T01:03:13Z
dc.date.available2019-06-29T01:03:13Z
dc.identifier.otherb71494868
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/164276
dc.description.abstractThe broad questions asked in this PhD thesis are: How do Bininj Kunwok people from Western Arnhem Land navigate in the bush? Why do they navigate that way, and how do they verbalize their orientation systems? The motivation behind these questions is to expand our understanding of the way humans rely on and use language during spatial navigation. Spatial navigation is more than a decision-making, memory, and planning process. One argument of this thesis is that navigation is geographically as well as socio-pragmatically modulated. Through a detailed analysis of Bininj Kunwok spatial language across several different contexts, an audience design working model of navigation is proposed, which adds a communicative parameter to existing cognitive models. This dissertation also aims to enrich Bininj Kunwok ethnographic documentation of the long- established traditions of travelling through the bush on foot. This is assumed to be a fundamental part and parcel of Bininj Kunwok culture, and is therefore an important component to be observed and documented for the benefit of the communities who collaborated with the project. The data for this thesis has involved the design and application of a field methodology to record spatially contextualized talk in relation to navigation in the presence of relevant cues, largely absent in previous empirical methodological approaches related to the subjects of space and language. The most innovative aspect of the method is the synchronization of GoPro cameras and GPS tracks during people's walks and the creation of small-scale navigation stimuli to enhance further elicitation of navigation-related language. Existing corpora were used as well. The overall collection is also used to test several hypotheses concerning theoretical debates about the relationship between language and spatial cognition and the outcome shows the significance of documenting and analyzing language use in context. A qualitative and quantitative analysis confirms that Bininj Kunwok people use two types of allocentric orientation constructions, revealing two main navigation systems: the cardinal (e.g., N/S/E/W) and the geomorphic (e.g., upstream/downstream and high/low country). The choice of one or the other system is found to be dependent on the geographical context. The geomorphic is favoured near salient landmarks and the cardinal is more versatile, abstract and suitable in a wider number of contexts. Both systems are used within two main strategies of navigation already defined in the literature as proximate (related to the immediate judgment of the eye) and ultimate (related to traditions of land travel and tied to different processes). The choice of one or the other in Bininj Kunwok depends on socio-pragmatic factors such as the degree of spatial knowledge shared amongst fellow navigators. In this sense, the proximate is mostly used with/by interlocutors who are unfamiliar with an environment and the ultimate instead with/by familiar interlocutors. Finally, a qualitative analysis of memory-based narratives about orientation identified the use of a mnemonic technique already documented in Bininj Kunwok literature to ease memorization of places, here also found to be used for directions but using slightly different speech strategies. The specific structure of this technique resembles the logic behind sense of direction and path integration, two main parameters for the creation of cognitive maps. This result supports the suggestion that such a strategy can be an oral technique used to create a mental representation of an environment for its future recognition, fruition and navigation. Overall, this thesis provides the first in-depth investigation of spatial navigation in Bininj Kunwok. The results suggest significant socio-cultural and geographical modulation of spatial cognition in humans, as viewed through the lens of Bininj Kunwok language.
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.titlePlacing spatial language and cognition in context through an investigation of Bininj Kunwok navigation talk
dc.typeThesis (PhD)
local.contributor.supervisorEvan Kidd
local.contributor.supervisorcontactu3214968@anu.edu.au
dc.date.issued2019
local.contributor.affiliationResearch School of Psychology, College of Science, The Australian National University
local.identifier.doi10.25911/5d5147db24bad
local.identifier.proquestNo
local.identifier.researcherIDClaudia Cialone
local.thesisANUonly.authorbefbbf7e-e9f2-4b76-a6c8-62142aa4266c
local.thesisANUonly.title000000015399_TC_1
local.thesisANUonly.keyee08e534-57e0-2db1-46ef-f91f6055b415
local.mintdoimint
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