Talking Space: inference from spatial linguistic meanings

09/14/2021
by   Vincent Wang-Mascianica, et al.
0

This paper concerns the intersection of natural language and the physical space around us in which we live, that we observe and/or imagine things within. Many important features of language have spatial connotations, for example, many prepositions (like in, next to, after, on, etc.) are fundamentally spatial. Space is also a key factor of the meanings of many words/phrases/sentences/text, and space is a, if not the key, context for referencing (e.g. pointing) and embodiment. We propose a mechanism for how space and linguistic structure can be made to interact in a matching compositional fashion. Examples include Cartesian space, subway stations, chesspieces on a chess-board, and Penrose's staircase. The starting point for our construction is the DisCoCat model of compositional natural language meaning, which we relax to accommodate physical space. We address the issue of having multiple agents/objects in a space, including the case that each agent has different capabilities with respect to that space, e.g., the specific moves each chesspiece can make, or the different velocities one may be able to reach. Once our model is in place, we show how inferences drawing from the structure of physical space can be made. We also how how linguistic model of space can interact with other such models related to our senses and/or embodiment, such as the conceptual spaces of colour, taste and smell, resulting in a rich compositional model of meaning that is close to human experience and embodiment in the world.

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