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Functional Features in Language and SpaceInsights from Perception, Categorization, and Development$
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Laura Carlson and Emile van der Zee

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199264339

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199264339.001.0001

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The Bicycle Pedal is in Front of the Table. Why some Objects do not Fit into some Spatial Relations

The Bicycle Pedal is in Front of the Table. Why some Objects do not Fit into some Spatial Relations

(p.25) 3 The Bicycle Pedal is in Front of the Table. Why some Objects do not Fit into some Spatial Relations
Functional Features in Language and Space



Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the meaning of locative sentences involving directional terms such as ‘in front of’, ‘behind’, ‘right of’, etc. First, it contrasts two spatial communication tasks: pointing to objects in a layout and telling their direction. It shows that after imagining a body rotation, pointing was considerably impaired with respect to a physical body rotation, whereas performance in the verbal location task was similar under imaginary and physical rotation. It proposes that producing locative sentences, unlike pointing to objects, involves a second-order embodiment. That is, language spatial relations are represented and updated into a mental framework that is detached from body proprioceptive information, but still preserves spatial relations analogically. Second, the chapter describes a corpus-based study of locative sentences that demonstrated that some features of the figure and the ground are associated with the direction or dimension tagged by the preposition. For instance, partitive entities (e.g., parts of bodies or machines) are more frequently associated to vertical directions, whereas animate entities are more frequently associated to horizontal terms. This fit between object information (provided by nouns) and spatial information (provided by prepositions), is compatible with an integration or meshing hypothesis.

Keywords:   locative sentences, embodied representation, spatial communication, physical body rotation, spatial relations

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