Peter Gardenfors, "The Geometry of Meaning: Semantics Based on Conceptual Spaces" (MIT Press, 2014)


A conceptual space sounds like a rather nebulous thing, and basing a semantics on conceptual spaces sounds similarly nebulous. In The Geometry of Meaning: Semantics Based on Conceptual Spaces (MIT Press, 2014), Peter Gardenfors demonstrates that this need not be the case. Indeed, his research is directed towards establishing a formal, mathematically-grounded account of semantics, an account which - as expounded here - is nevertheless accessible. In this interview we discuss the essence of this proposal, focusing in particular on its implications for linguistic analysis, but also touching upon its relation to cognitive science and other related fields. The proposal makes testable predictions about the organization of individual linguistic systems, as well as their acquisition (and potentially their evolution over time). Notably, the "single domain constraint" posits that individual lexical items refer to convex regions of single domains. We discuss the significance of this idea as a bridge between linguistics and cognitive science, what would constitute its falsification, and how it can usefully be investigated from a linguistic standpoint.

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