Using conceptual spaces to model actions and events

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Semantics, 2012, 29 (4), pp. 487 - 519
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Actions and events are central to a semantics of natural language. In this article, we present a cognitively based model of these notions. After giving a general presentation of the theory of conceptual spaces, we explain how the analysis of perceptual concepts can be extended to actions and events. First, we argue that action space can be analyzed in the same way as, for example, colour space or shape space. Our hypothesis is that the categorization of actions depends, to a large extent, on the perception of forces. In line with this, we describe an action as a pattern of forces. We identify an action category as a convex region of action space. We review some indirect evidence for this representation. Second, we represent an event as an interaction between a force vector and a result vector. Typically an agent performs an action-that is, exerts a force-that changes the properties of the patient. Such a model of events is suitable for an analysis of the semantics of verbs. We compare the model to other related attempts from cognitive semantics. © The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press.
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