Project members:

Peter Gärdenfors, Magnus Lindgren, Rasmus Bååth, Simone Löhndorf, Carita Paradis, Chris Sinha.

Aim of project/main objective/main hypothesis:.

The project is long-term theoretical work within CCL together with Massimo Warglien, University of Venice, Mathijs Westera, University of Amsterdam, Joost Zwarts, University of Utrecht, and some other semanticists. The overall purpose is to develop a socio-cognitive theory of semantics. The theory is based on Gärdenfors’s conceptual spaces, but it also includes elements from communication games and theories of intersubjectivty. One aim is to show that there is a continuity in the semantics of verbal and non-verbal communication. The theory is presented in Gärdenfors’s new book Geometry of Meaning: Semantics Based on Conceptual Spaces (MIT Press).

One of the main achievements of the model is that it provides a cognitive grounding of word classes. In Gärdenfors’s earlier work it has been proposed that adjectives map onto regions of single semantic domains (color, shape, size, loudness …) and that nouns in general map onto bundles of regions domains together with information about how the regions are correlated. In the project we have extended the analysis to verbs. This is based on a model of events consisting of two vectors – one action vector and one result vector. The basic hypothesis is that a verb denotes one of the vectors in an event. Conceptual space have also been applied to provide a unified analysis of the semantics of locative and directional prepositions and to model the role of the space of forces in some prepositions such as ”over” and ”in”.

Why is this project interesting?

We believe that our work on verbs and prepositions, in addition to earlier work on nouns and adjectives, shows that conceptual space approach to semantics is viable and can generate new insights into meaning-creating processes. It provides a bridge between research on the formation of different kinds of concepts and semantics for natural languages.

Potential applications (diagnostic tools, methods for other research areas, for society):

The model can become a useful tool for analyzing the development of communication in children. It will also have application in robotics and in the Internet technologies behind creating the Semantic Web.


Gärdenfors, P. (2011) Evolution and semantics, pp. 748-750 in Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences, ed. by P. C. Hogan, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Gärdenfors, P. (2011): Semantics based on conceptual spaces, pp. 1-11 in the Proceedings of 4th Indian Conference on Logic and its Applications (LNAI 6521), ed. by M. Banerjee and A. Seth, Springer, Berlin.

Gärdenfors, P. and Warglien, M. (2012) Using conceptual spaces to model actions and events”, Journal of Semantics 29, pp. 487-519

Warglien, M., Gärdenfors, P. and Westera, M. (2012): Event structure, conceptual spaces and the semantics of verbs, Theoretical Linguistics 38, 159-193.

Warglien, M., Gärdenfors, P. and Westera, M. (2012): Reply to comments, Theoretical Linguistics 38, pp. 249-264.

Gärdenfors, P. (2012): Bodily forces, actions and the semantics of verbs, pp.253-271 in Bodies in Action and Symbolic Forms, ed by. H. Bredekamp, M. Lauschke and A. Arteaga. (Actus et Imago. Berliner Schriften für Bildakt-Forschung).

Gärdenfors, P. (2012) “Reasons for meanings: A theory of semantics grounded in perception, action and interaction”, pp. 1327-1344 in Welt der Gründe, ed. by J. Nida-Rümelin and E. Özmen, Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg.

Hemeren, P. and Gärdenfors, P. (2012) A framework for representing action meaning in artificial systems via force dimensions, pp. 99-106 in the Proceedings of the Fifth Conference on Artificial General Intelligence, ed. by J. Bach, B. Goeertzel and M. Ilké, Springer, Berlin.

Warglien, M. and Gärdenfors, P. (2013): ”Semantics, conceptual spaces and the meeting of minds”, Synthese 190, 2165-2193.

Gärdenfors, P. and Warglien, M. (2013) The development of semantic space for pointing and verbal communication, pp. 29-42 in Conceptual Spaces and the Construal of Spatial Meaning: Empirical Evidence from Human Communication, ed. by J. Hudson, U. Magnusson and C. Paradis, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Gärdenfors, P. (2013): The evolution of semantics: Sharing conceptual domains”, pp. 139-159  in The Evolutionary Emergence of Language, R. Botha and M. Everaert (eds.), Oxford University Press, Oxford

Fiorini, S. R., Gärdenfors, P. and Abel, M. (2013): Structure, similarity and spaces”,  pp. 71-74 in Shapes 2.0: The Shape of Things, ed. by O. Kutz, M. Bhatt, S. Borgo and P. Santos,  CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Rio de Janeiro

Gärdenfors, P. and Löhndorf , S.(2013) What is a domain? – Dimensional structure versus meronomic relations, Cognitive Linguistics 24(3), 437-456.

Gärdenfors, P. (2014) Geometry of Meaning: Semantics Based on Conceptual Spaces, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Fiorini, S. R., Gärdenfors, P. and Abel, M. (to appear): Representing part-whole relations in conceptual spaces”, to appear in Cognitive Processing.

Gärdenfors, P. (submitted): Levels of communication and lexical semantics, manuscript.

Zwarts, J. and Gärdenfors, P. (submitted): Locational and directional prepositions in conceptual spaces, manuscript.

Collaborations within CCL

Actual: Marianne Gullberg, the simulation group

Collaborations outside of CCL

Massimo Warglien, Venice, Matthijs Westera, Amsterdam, Joost Zwarts, Utrecht, Janne von Koss Torkildsen, Bergen, Tor Endestad, Oslo, Sandro Rama Fiorini, Porto Allegro.

Optional questions: What general research problem would you like to attack in five years from now? Which will be the hot topics in your field in five years from now? How could CCL anticipate research on these questions?

A general program is to provide cognitive foundations, rather than syntactic, of word classes and their role in communication and cognition. A general research question for CCL would be to analyse how the brain can handle geometric structures. CCL can prepare the ground by continuing discussions between cognitive scientists, linguists, speech therapists and psychologists.