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Peter Gärdenfors, Wednesday May 20

A semantic theory of word classes

Peter Gärdenfors
Department of Philosophy, Lund University

Within linguistics a word class is defined in grammatical terms as a set of words that exhibit the same syntactic properties. In this talk the aim is to argue that the meanings of different word classes can be given a cognitive grounding. I build on my theory of conceptual spaces that are built up from meaning domains. The domains have geometric or topological structures that constrain which meanings are possible. It is shown that with the aid of conceptual spaces, a unified semantic analysis can be provided for the major word classes. Adjectives refer to regions of property domains, verbs refer to the force domain (manner verbs) or vectors in property domains (results verbs), (most) prepositions refer to relations in the spatial domain, and nouns refer to categories that are described in terms of products of property domains. A universal single-domain thesis is proposed, saying that words in all content word classes, except for nouns, refer to a single meaning domain. This thesis could become a central element in understanding why word learning is so efficient.

Where and when:
15:45-17:00 May 20, 2015
MPI Conference room 163
Julia Udden
Shiri Lev-Ari

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