Cristóbal Pagán Cánovas

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2017/2018
discipline Linguistics
Researcher, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra, Spain

Research project

The Spatial Cognition of Time: Creativity, Culture, Communication (CREATIME)

Complex concepts, such as time, are often based on others that are more directly experienced, such as motion ("Saturday is approaching"). How complex are those conceptual patterns and how creative can their use be across different contexts and modalities? What can this tell us about the human mind, especially about creativity and the imagination?


My proposal is that the process for integrating conceptual structure and information from different modalities is more complex, creative, and flexible than what current theories of grounding, embodiment, or metaphor suggest. The CREATIME project seeks to expose the intricacy of the patterns and their imaginative adaptation for both everyday and aesthetic goals, in scripted and unscripted communicative acts, and through conventional as well as novel expressions. To study what people actually do in the rich contexts we all live in, a team from the universities of Murcia, Navarra, Lancaster, Geneva, and Neuchâtel compares big data from speech, gesture, poetry, and film.


Gesture and speech studies are carried out within the Red Hen Lab, an international consortium for research into multimodal communication. In Red Hen we are developing the NewsScape repository of Television News, curated by the Library of the University of California Los Angeles. NewsScape contains over 340000 hours of recorded TV news in English, Spanish, and other languages (with about 150 hours being captured daily in nodes around the world), alongside over 4 billion words of time-stamped close captioning, synchronized with the video. We use these tools for quantitative studies of verbal and gestural patterns associated to the expression of time in authentic, highly spontaneous acts of predominantly oral, largely unscripted communication.


For written or highly scripted communication we extract figurative expressions of time from an electronic corpus that we are building, which contains hundreds of poetic works in English, Spanish, and modern Greek, with ancient Greek, Latin, and other literatures forthcoming. We are also studying a corpus of dozens of cinema flashbacks from practically all periods of film history.


The main goals of the IAS stay are to discuss the implications of this research across disciplines, to prepare a monograph and other publications providing a theoretical analysis and an overview of the data, and to work towards making the data and metadata of the project as widely available as possible to the academic community.





Cristóbal Pagán Cánovas is a Ramón y Cajal Researcher at the Department of English Philology, University of Murcia. He holds a Ph.D in Classics from the University of Murcia. His main research interests are cognition and creativity -especially conceptual integration or blending-, cognitive approaches to language and poetics, mappings and spatial schemas in the construction of concepts -especially time and emotion-, formulaic poetics in oral traditions, and multimodal communication (gesture, prosody, song, film).



Selected publications


'The Way Time Goes By:  Conceptual Integration and the Poetics of Time', with A. Piata, in S. Csábi (ed.), Expressive Minds and Artistic Creations: Studies in Cognitive Poetics, Oxford University Press, New York, 2018.


'Timelines and Multimodal Constructions: Facing new Challenges', with J. Valenzuela, Linguistic Vanguard [online], vol. 3, no. 1, June 2017, <>, published 29 June 2017.


'Generic Integration Templates for Fictive Communication', with M. Turner, in E. Pascual & S. Sandler (eds), The Conversation Frame: Forms and Functions of Fictive Interaction, John Benjamins, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, 2015, pp. 45-62.


'Like the Machete the Snake: Integration of Topic and Vehicle in Poetry Comprehension Reveals Meaning Construction Processes', with J. Valenzuela & J. Santiago, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, vol. 9, no. 4, 2015, pp. 385-393.


'On Defining Image Schemas', with J. Mandler, Language and Cognition, vol. 6, no.4, 2014, pp. 510-532.





junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Mathematics and Musicology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline History of Science
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Law
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Literature