Typology of Spatial Representation

Course time: 
Monday/Thursday 9:00-10:50 AM

This course offers an introduction into the semantic typology of spatial representations. Semantic typology is the crosslinguistic study of semantic categorization. Recent research has uncovered an astonishing amount of variation in how natural languages represent space. The domain of spatial representations in language encompasses a wide variety of properties and states of affairs, including spatial deixis, dimensionality and shape, disposition (including posture), orientation and directionality, topological and projective spatial relations, locative predication, and motion descriptions.

We will begin with a survey of the entire domain, briefly discussing landmark studies and noting open questions and unsolved problems. This will be followed by an in-depth look at recent advances in quantitatively modeling the interaction of language, culture, and the environment in shaping spatial reference in discourse and nonverbal cognition. A specific property of spatial representations - the use of reference frames in defining projective spatial relations - has been emerging as an unparalleled testing ground for studying the role of culture in cognition.