Publication details [#13858]

Kataoka, Kuniyoshi. 1998. Gravity or levity: Vertical space in Japanese rock climbing instructions. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 8 (2) : 222–248.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject


In notional frameworks of space, '(relative) ego-centricity' and '(absolute) gravity' are assumed to be the dominant criteria for coordinating the horizontal and vertical dimensions. This article looks critically at the second criterion, the supremacy of gravity-based verticality. By drawing on the discourse data from rock climbers, I propose that the absolute value assigned to vertical space may have been overestimated in European conceptualizations of space. It is shown that the 'subjectified' (Langacker 1991) vertical dimension, contextually constructed within the speaker's cognitive space, can override the gravitational orientation in languages like Japanese.