A paper titled “Spatial communication systems across languages reflect universal action constraints.” has been published in Nature Human Behaviour where Prof. Ramesh Kumar Mishra, Head of Centre for Neural and Cognitive Sciences (CNCS), Dr. Keerthana Kapiley, postdoctoral researcher at IIT Hyderabad, and Vaishnavi Mohite a PhD student at CNCS, participated in the research, led by the research team of University of East Anglia (UEA). Nature Human Behaviour is one of the most influential journals in cognitive science, brain sciences and allied fields that publishes very selective articles.

The focus of the research was to study spatial aspects of language use across many languages. This was the first study in the world that collected data from 29 languages, which included Marathi and Telugu. The most significant finding of the study was that we strongly rely on our physical experiences and actions to communicate about space. Interestingly, these constraints on how we understand space and communicate about it are fairly universal and are shared across different languages. Humans use language very simply to refer to things that are either nearby or far away. This representation of language is very important for manipulating cognition. This is a transnational collaboration with Prof. Kenny Coventry, distinguished Chair and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research at UEA and Dr Harmen Gudde, a postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University.

The team’s groundbreaking research holds far-reaching implications for our understanding of language and cognition. It reveals the profound connections between our spatial thinking and our linguistic expressions, paving the way for advancements in fields such as language acquisition, language teaching, and artificial intelligence.


Coventry, K. R., Gudde, H. B., Diessel, H., Collier, J., Guijarro-Fuentes, P., Vulchanova, M., … & Mishra, R. K. (2023). Spatial communication systems across languages reflect universal action constraints. Nature Human Behaviour, 1-11.