Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Research Article

Transfer of conceptualization patterns in bilinguals: The construal of motion events in Turkish and German*


a1 University of the West of England, Bristol

a2 University of the West of England, Bristol

a3 Radboud University, Nijmegen


In the present article we provide evidence for the occurrence of transfer of conceptualization patterns in narratives of two German–Turkish bilingual groups. All bilingual participants grew up in Germany, but only one group is still resident in Germany (n = 49). The other, the returnees, moved back to Turkey after having lived in Germany for thirteen years (n = 35). The study is based on the theoretical framework for conceptual transfer outlined in Jarvis and Pavlenko (2008) and on the typology of satellite-framed and verb-framed languages developed by Talmy (1985, 1991, 2000a, b) and Slobin (1987, 1996, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006). In the present study we provide evidence for the hypothesis that language structure affects the organization of information structure at the level of the Conceptualizer, and show that bilingual speakers’ conceptualization of motion events is influenced by the dominant linguistic environment in both languages (German for the group in Germany and Turkish for the returnees). The returnees follow the Turkish blueprints for the conceptualization of motion, in both Turkish and German event construals, whereas the German-resident bilinguals follow the German blueprints, when speaking German as well as Turkish. We argue that most of the patterns found are the result of transfer of conceptualization patterns from the dominant language of the environment.

(Received February 03 2009)

(Revised October 14 2009)

(Accepted November 16 2009)

(Online publication October 06 2010)


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Michael Daller, University of the West of England, Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences, Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK


* We would like to thank Scott Jarvis for his continuous support and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this article.