, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 598-604

Can a mind have two time lines? Exploring space–time mapping in Mandarin and English speakers

Abstract

Spatial representations of time are a ubiquitous feature of human cognition. Nevertheless, interesting sociolinguistic variations exist with respect to where in space people locate temporal constructs. For instance, while in English time metaphorically flows horizontally, in Mandarin an additional vertical dimension is employed. Noting that the bilingual mind can flexibly accommodate multiple representations, the present work explored whether Mandarin–English bilinguals possess two mental time lines. Across two experiments, we demonstrated that Mandarin–English bilinguals do indeed employ both horizontal and vertical representations of time. Importantly, subtle variations to cultural context were seen to shape how these time lines were deployed.