From language to meteorology: kinesis in weather events and weather verbs across Sinitic languages

Chu Ren Huang, Sicong Dong, Yike Yang, He Ren

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Interactions among the environment, humans and language underlie many of the most pressing challenges we face today. This study investigates the use of different verbs to encode various weather events in Sinitic languages, a language family spoken over a wide range of climates and with 3000 years of continuous textual documentation. We propose to synergise the many concepts of kinesis that grew from Aristotle’s original ideas to account for the correlation between meteorological events and their linguistic encoding. It is observed that the two most salient key factors of weather events, i.e., mass of weather substances and speed of weather processes, are the two contributing components of kinetic energy. Leveraging the linguistic theory that kinesis underpins conceptualisation of verb classes, this paper successfully accounts for the selection of verbs for different meteorological events in all Sinitic languages in terms of both language variations and changes. Specifically, weather events with bigger weather substances and faster weather processes tend to select action verbs with high transitivity. The kinesis driven accounts also predict the typological variations between verbal and nominal constructions for weather expressions. The correlation between kinesis and the selection of verbs is further corroborated by an experiment on the perception of native Sinitic language speakers, as well as analyses of regional variations of verb selections that do not follow general typological patterns. It is found that such typological exceptions generally correspond to variations in meteorological patterns. By explicating the pivotal role of kinesis in bridging weather events and the linguistic encoding of weather, this study underlines the role of cognition as the conceptualisation of physical and sensory inputs to sharable knowledge encoded by language.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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