LINGUIST List 19.95

Wed Jan 09 2008

Review: Psycholinguistics: Aurnague, Hickman & Vieu (2007)

Editor for this issue: Randall Eggert <>

        1.    Randall Eggert, Review: Psycholinguistics: Aurnague, Hickman & Vieu (2007)

Message 1: Review: Psycholinguistics: Aurnague, Hickman & Vieu (2007)
Date: 09-Jan-2008
From: Randall Eggert <>
Subject: Review: Psycholinguistics: Aurnague, Hickman & Vieu (2007)
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Announced at EDITORS: Aurnague, Michel; Hickman, Maya; Vieu, LaureTITLE: The Categorization of Spatial Entities in Language and CognitionSERIES: Human Cognitive Processing 20PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing CompanyYEAR: 2007

Mohammad Rasekh Mahand, Linguistics Department, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan,Iran

SUMMARYThis book tackles the questions raised by categorization of spatial entitiesfrom various standpoints in different disciplines. It is divided into three mainsections: descriptive linguistics; psycholinguistic and developmentalpsychology; and artificial intelligence, philosophy, and philosophy of language,

The editors in their introduction to the book give a review of past and presentstudies on the categorization of spatial entities in different research fields.They specify that the term spatial entity in this volume refers to entities ashaving a spatial extension, that is to say as occupying a certain portion ofspace at a given point in time and as potentially serving to locate otherindividuals in space.

The first paper by Vandeloise introduces a taxonomy of basic natural entitiesthat is illustrated with data from French and English, but meant to have a moregeneral linguistic and cognitive validity. It is concerned with materialentities and places they occupy, and the opposition of count and mass entities.

Borillo, in her contribution, analyzes the spatial meaning of the Frenchpreposition _contre_ ('against'), with particular attention to how entities andforce dynamics contribute to determine its semantic content. Her claim is thatthis marker denotes different spatial relations among concrete physical entities.

The third paper of this volume by Stosic considers two other Frenchprepositions, _par_ ('by') and _á travers_ ('through'), that are closely relatedto the expression of dynamic space. The paper aims at uncovering the semanticconstraints that are imposed by these markers on the nouns with which they arecombined.

In the following paper Grinevald gives a brief account of some non-Indo-Europeanlanguages that overtly categorize spatial entities by using classifiers and ,more generally, nominal classification systems.

The last paper of the first section, the descriptive part, focuses onorientation motion verbs of Korean and French. Choi-Jonin and Sarda analyze thesemantic content of these verbs and their interaction with functional suffixesand prepositions, as well as their behavior in other specific constructions.

The descriptive work in the first part of this volume seems to indicate thatlanguage does not handle spatial entities discriminately, but rather makes somesignificant distinctions among them.

The papers in the second part of this volume show the results ofpsycholinguistic studies examining the relation between linguistic and cognitivecategories. The first paper by Aurnague et al. focuses on the different factorsthat may influence the intrinsic or deictic interpretations of spatial markers.

Bowerman, in the second paper of this part, argues that language is a specialtool for prompting comparison between exemplars in the extraction of abstracts.Evidence from children's errors shows different types of overextensions acrosslanguages. Bowerman attributes the differences between these overgeneralizationsto the breadth and composition of categories across languages.

Hickmann summarizes the results of several experiments focusing on how Frenchand English speakers express spatial information when locating entities,describing object displacements, and narrating spontaneous motion.

Hespos and Spelke summarize a series of experiments testing the hypothesis thatinfants possess a rich set of conceptual distinctions independently of language.They conclude that systems of core knowledge give rise to a set of spatial andmechanical concepts that is much larger than the one encoded by any one language.

In the last paper of the second part, Lècuyer et al. propose to test empiricallythe predictions of three approaches to infants' early representations ofobjects: Piagetian theory, perceptual theories and nativism.

To summarize, the papers in the second part of the volume make a substantialcontribution towards an account of the relation between cognitive and linguisticspatial categories, but they also raise a number of questions that must befurther addressed.

The third part of this book is devoted to the characterization in logicalformalisms of the categories of spatial entities that play a role in languageand cognition. A basic issue regards the relationship between linguistics,especially formal semantics, and formal ontology.

In the first paper of this part, Varzi examines the possibility of foundingontological analysis on linguistic analysis. He focuses on two traps in tryingto establish what categories of entities there are on the basis of what is saidin language.

Muller's paper studies the nature of spatial entities focusing on their temporaldimension and explicitly explores the adequacy of four-dimensionalist, orspatio-temporal, ontological theory to account for a number of well-knownsemantic phenomena.

The following paper by Vieu and Aurnague focuses on the role of categories inthe expression part-whole relations in French. It shows that the classicalhypothesis of the multiplicity of part-whole relations is in a large partexplained by the different ontological nature of the arguments.

The last paper by Asher focuses on types - in fact, ontological categories -involved in the lexicon referring to the spatial domain. He gives a highlydeveloped logical theory of complex or dotted types.

The papers presented in the last part of this volume, lying at the intersectionbetween formal ontology and formal semantics, show that, even though the verypossibility of such an interdisciplinary research is still questioned, models ofhow ontological theories of spatial entities integrate within a theory ofmeaning to account for linguistic phenomena can indeed be achieved.

EVALUATIONThis volume provides a first entry into the categorization of spatial entity inlanguage and cognition. It evaluates previous work that directly or indirectlydeals with categorization of spatial entities in a general overview of thisfield, and it raises some main question and tries to answer them in differentpapers. On the whole, the volume opens a new research area, providing minimalgrounds for its future development. It also contributes to the development ofnew approaches and methodologies in the study of the categorization of spatialentities.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER:Mohammad Rasekh Mahand is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Bu-Ali SinaUniversity, Hamadan, Iran. His research interests include syntax,syntax-pragmatics interface and typology.