The Geometry of Meaning

Semantics Based on Conceptual Spaces

In The Geometry of Meaning, Peter Gärdenfors proposes a theory of semantics that bridges cognitive science and linguistics and shows how theories of cognitive processes, in particular concept formation, can be exploited in a general semantic model. He argues that our minds organize the information involved in communicative acts in a format that can be modeled in geometric or topological terms—in what he terms conceptual spaces, extending the theory he presented in an earlier book by that name.

Many semantic theories consider the meanings of words as relatively stable and independent of the communicative context. Gärdenfors focuses instead on how various forms of communication establish a system of meanings that becomes shared between interlocutors. He argues that these “meetings of mind” depend on the underlying geometric structures, and that these structures facilitate language learning. Turning to lexical semantics, Gärdenfors argues that a unified theory of word meaning can be developed by using conceptual spaces. He shows that the meaning of different word classes can be given a cognitive grounding, and offers semantic analyses of nouns, adjectives, verbs, and prepositions. He also presents models of how the meanings of words are composed to form new meanings and of the basic semantic role of sentences. Finally, he considers the future implications of his theory for robot semantics and the Semantic Web.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. I. Semantics as Meetings of Minds
  3. 1. What Is Semantics?
  4. 2. Conceptual Spaces
  5. 3. The Development of Semantic Domains
  6. 4. Pointing as Meeting of Minds
  7. 5. Meetings of Minds as Fixpoints
  8. II. Lexical Statements
  9. 6. Object Categories and the Semantics of Nouns
  10. 7. Properties and the Semantics of Adjectives
  11. 8. Actions
  12. 9. Events
  13. 10. The Semantics of Verbs
  14. 11. The Geometry of Prepositional Meaning
  15. 12. A Cognitive Analysis of Word Classes
  16. 13. Compositionality
  17. III. Envoi
  18. 14. Modeling Meanings in Robots and in the Semantic Web
  19. 15. Taking Stock
  20. Appendix: Existence of Fixpoints
  21. Notes
  22. References
  23. Index