Spatial language and spatial representation.
ABSTRACT This study explores the commonalities between linguistic and visual representations of space. In particular, because common types of spatial relations, specifically closed-class spatial forms in language and qualitative spatial relations in perception, have been proposed in both representational systems, we investigate whether they share underlying structural similarities. Moreover, while visual spatial relations are a basic element of several theories of object representation, they have been characterized mainly in terms of their linguistic counterparts and without direct evidence about their organization. In order to illuminate the nature of these structures, as well as demonstrate possible correspondences between the two systems, we compare how the spatial relationship between pairs of objects in a scene is encoded linguistically and visually. Spatial language was investigated by having subjects either generate (Experiment 1) or rate the applicability of (Experiment 2) spatial terms for describing the spatial relationship between object pairs. Both the frequency of use and the applicability of spatial terms were highest when the two objects were in vertical or in horizontal alignment. Spatial representation was investigated by paradigms in which subjects either recalled the position of one object relative to the other (Experiment 3) or judged whether one object presented sequentially was in the same or a different position relative to the other (Experiment 4). The accuracy of position estimates and the sensitivity to shifts in position were both highest when the rated object was in a spatial location where spatial terms had been judged to have high applicability in Experiments 1 and 2. These results indicate that the structure of space as encoded by language may be determined by the structure of spatial relations in visual representation.
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ABSTRACT: Two experiments investigated the mental representation of spatial descriptions. In Experiment 1, the subjects classified a series of diagrams, each presented after a spatial description, as either consistent or inconsistent with the description. They were then given an unexpected recognition test of their memory for the descriptions. The subjects remembered the meanings of determinate descriptions very much better than those of grossly indeterminate descriptions; their memory for a description was not reliably affected by whether or not the diagram had been consistent with it. Experiment 2 extended these findings and showed that, although the semantic implications of a determinate description are better remembered than are those of an indeterminate description, the verbatim details of an indeterminate description are easier to recall than are those of a determinate description. The results are taken to imply the existence of two different sorts of encoding: propositional representations that are relatively hard to remember but correspond closely to the sentences in the description, and mental models that are relatively easy to remember but are analogous to spatial arrays and accordingly poor in linguistic detail.Memory & Cognition 04/1982; 10(2):181-7. · 1.92 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Fundamental to spatial knowledge in all species are the representations underlying object recognition, object search, and navigation through space. But what sets humans apart from other species is our ability to express spatial experience through language. This target article explores the language of objects and places, asking what geometric properties are preserved in the representations underlying object nouns and spatial prepositions in English. Evidence from these two aspects of language suggests there are significant differences in the geometric richness with which objects and places are encoded. When an object is named (i.e., with count nouns), detailed geometric properties – principally the object's shape (axes, solid and hollow volumes, surfaces, and parts) – are represented. In contrast, when an object plays the role of either “figure” (located object) or “ground” (reference object) in a locational expression, only very coarse geometric object properties are represented, primarily the main axes. In addition, the spatial functions encoded by spatial prepositions tend to be nonmetric and relatively coarse, for example, “containment,” “contact,” “relative distance,” and “relative direction.” These properties are representative of other languages as well. The striking differences in the way language encodes objects versus places lead us to suggest two explanations: First, there is a tendency for languages to level out geometric detail from both object and place representations. Second, a nonlinguistic disparity between the representations of “what” and “where” underlies how language represents objects and places. The language of objects and places converges with and enriches our understanding of corresponding spatial representations.Behavioral and Brain Sciences 05/1993; 16(02):217 - 238. · 18.57 Impact Factor