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Ed Heil wrote:

> There's this intriguing book out by Gilles Fauconnier, called _Mental
> Spaces_ (translation of a French original).  It does away with
> traditional 'referential' semantic analyses of sentences in favor of a
> 'cognitive' analysis.  He sees sentences not so much as "carriers of
> meaning", where a sentence or a word "has" a meaning, but as minimal
> sets of instructions, which tell the hearer how to construct a meaning
> by manipulating, adding to, and subtracting from configurations of
> mental entities.
>
> Basic to the theory is the idea that meaning is distributed across
> sets of "mental spaces," so called because they are usually (in
> ordinary conversation) spoken of in metaphorical terms borrowed from
> physical spaces.  Any situation where meaning is compartmentalized is,
> in this theory, represented by different mental spaces: different
> times, different places, different contexts, different social spheres,
> reality and possibility, antecedent and consequent, and so on, all use
> exactly the same mechanisms.

This sounds similar to the localist case theory:
http://www.uoregon.edu/~delancey/papers/bls91.html

> Also basic to the theory is the idea that entities in one mental
> space may be linked to entities in another mental space (or in the
> same one!) via _connectors_ of different kinds.  Generally it is
> possible to use the name or description of an entity in one space to
> refer to an entity to which it is _connected_.  Identity is one
> connector among many.  Different kinds of analogy are also connectors,
> and so are well known functional relationships like those between
> authors and books -- "Plato is on the third shelf from the left."
> Connectors of another kind link roles and values.

There is also the idea of neural maps, pioneered by Michael Arbib
back in the 1960's ... http://www-hbp.usc.edu/

These ideas seem to be growing more popular, in linguistics,
psychology, and artificial intelligence.

> Definite and indefinite descriptions are easily explicated in mental
> space theory: a definite description identifies an entity already
> existing in a mental space; an indefinite description is an
> instruction to set up a new entity in a mental space.  (Broadly
> speaking.)
>
> Anyway, in mental space theory, negations are instructions to set up
> a mental space which contains the negated material, and to block the
> focussed entities from the negative space from being allowed into the
> reference space.  ("Reference space" is a relative term meaning
> something like the "parent" space with reference to which the
> negation-space is set up as a "daughter.").

A very cool analysis.