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ERIC Number: EJ1135473
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Mar
Pages: 30
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0364-0213
Update on "What" and "Where" in Spatial Language: A New Division of Labor for Spatial Terms
Landau, Barbara
Cognitive Science, v41 suppl 2 p321-350 Mar 2017
In this article, I revisit Landau and Jackendoff's (1993) paper, "What and where in spatial language and spatial cognition," proposing a friendly amendment and reformulation. The original paper emphasized the distinct geometries that are engaged when objects are represented as members of object kinds (named by count nouns), versus when they are represented as figure and ground in spatial expressions (i.e., play the role of arguments of spatial prepositions). We provided empirical and theoretical arguments for the link between these distinct representations in spatial language and their accompanying nonlinguistic neural representations, emphasizing the "what" and "where" systems of the visual system. In the present paper, I propose a second division of labor between two classes of spatial prepositions in English that appear to be quite distinct. One class includes prepositions such as "in" and "on," whose core meanings engage force-dynamic, functional relationships between objects, with geometry only a marginal player. The second class includes prepositions such as "above"/"below" and "right"/"left," whose core meanings engage geometry, with force-dynamic relationships a passing or irrelevant variable. The insight that objects' force-dynamic relationships matter to spatial terms' uses is not new; but thinking of these terms as a distinct set within spatial language has theoretical and empirical consequences that are new. I propose three such consequences, rooted in the fact that geometric knowledge is highly constrained and early-emerging in life, while force-dynamic knowledge of objects and their interactions is relatively unconstrained and needs to be learned piecemeal over a lengthy timeline. First, the two classes will engage different learning problems, with different developmental trajectories for both first and second language learners; second, the classes will naturally lead to different degrees of cross-linguistic variation; and third, they may be rooted in different neural representations.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A