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Landscapes are essential to human life: they provide a multitude of material (food, water, pollination) and nonmaterial (beauty, tranquility, recreation) values. Their importance is enshrined in international conventions and treaties, committing signatories to protecting, monitoring, and managing all landscapes. Yet, relatively little is known about how people conceptualize "landscape" and its constituents. There is emerging evidence that conceptualizations of landscape entities may influence landscape management. This in turn raises the question as to how people speaking different languages, and with differing levels of expertise, may differ in conceptualizing landscape domains as a whole. In this paper, we investigated how people conceptualize landscape-related terms in a specific domain-waterbodies-by comparing German and English-speaking experts and nonexperts. We identified commonly used waterbody terms in sustainability discourses in both languages, and used those terms to collect sensory, motor, and affective ratings from participants. Speakers of all groups appear to conceptualize the domain of waterbody terms in comparable ways. Nevertheless, we uncovered subtle differences across languages for nonexperts. For example, there were differences in which waterbodies were associated with calm happiness in each language. In addition, olfaction seemingly plays a role in English speakers' conceptualization of waterbodies, but not German speakers. Taken together, this suggests the ways in which people relate to landscape although shared in many respects may also be shaped in part by their specific language and culture.

Original publication




Journal article


Top Cogn Sci

Publication Date



Concepts, Emotional norms, Sensorimotor norms, Sustainability, Waterbodies