Thursday 30 May 2013A model of reference frames for spatial and temporal language

Dr. Thora Tenbrink - Bangor University

Harrison 102 14:00-15:00

Spatial expressions like "left", "in front of" etc. require conceptual reference frames for their interpretation. Understanding (and modelling) this phenomenon systematically is crucial for the (automatic, psycholinguistic, or other) interpretation of spatial language and therefore of interest for various strands of research in cognitive science, particularly spatial cognition. Previous approaches have typically focused on static relationships between objects that are topologically separate from each other. For example, Levinson's widely accepted framework (Levinson, 2003) distinguishes relative, intrinsic, and absolute reference frames. Building on and expanding this useful categorisation, I propose an informal model which, as its core idea, distinguishes abstract roles and their fillers, and systematically structures the ways in which they can relate to each other. The model is based on English and encompasses static as well as dynamic situations involving objects that are related to each other in either external (separate) or internal (nested) ways. The model's roles and relations are likewise applicable to temporal expressions such as "before" and "after". This approach highlights the distinction between conceptually similar (spatial and temporal) structures reflected in language on the one hand, and metaphorical transfer of clearly spatially-based concepts on the other.

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