Saying, Seeing and Acting: The Psychological Semantics of Spatial Prepositions, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Saying, Seeing and Acting

The Psychological Semantics of Spatial Prepositions, 1st Edition

By Kenny R. Coventry, Simon C. Garrod

Psychology Press

216 pages

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Our use of spatial prepositions carries an implicit understanding of the functional relationships both between objects themselves and human interaction with those objects.

This is the thesis rigorously explicated in Saying, Seeing and Acting. It aims to account not only for our theoretical comprehension of spatial relations but our ability to intercede with efficacy in the world of spatially related objects. Only the phenomenon of functionality can adequately account for what even the simplest of everyday experiences show to be the technically problematic, but still meaningful status of expressions of spatial location in contentious cases.

The terms of the debate are established and contextualised in Part One. In the Second Section, systematic experimental evidence is drawn upon to demonstrate specific covariances between spatial world and spatial language. The authors go on to give an original account of the functional and geometric constraints on which comprehension and human action among spatially related objects is based. Part Three looks at the interaction of these constraints to create a truly dynamic functional geometric framework for the meaningful use of spatial prepositions.

Fascinating to anyone whose work touches on psycholinguistics, this book represents a thorough and incisive contribution to debates in the cognitive psychology of language.


It has increasingly become clear that functional information is necessary in addition to geometric information in explaining spatial semantics, and this book provides an excellent synthesis of developments in the literature. The authors point out that while early accounts are untenable due to their heavy reliance on geometry, more recent accounts too often merely catalogue the flaws of these systems, and do not clearly describe alternative systems that could generate a wide variety of behaviours with relatively little machinery. The authors' notion of location control is compelling in that it appears to address the concerns of recent work with the simplicity found in earlier geometry accounts. I found it a pleasure to read. - Ed Munnich, University of California, Berkeley

This book nicely covers a wide scattering of ideas that have appeared in the literature over a great number of years, pulling them all together into a unified account. - Laura Carlson, University of Notre Dame

Table of Contents

Part 1: Saying, Seeing and Acting. Background to the Domain. Introduction to the Domain. Saying Spatial Prepositions and Lexical Semantics. Grounding Language in Perception - From "Saying" to "Seeing and Acting". Part 2: Saying, Seeing and Acting: Constructing an Account. Introducing the Functional Geometric Framework. Experimental Evidence for the Functional Geometric Framework. The So-called Topographical Prepositions. Experimental Evidence for the Functional Geometric Framework. Which Way up is up? The Projective Prepositions. Experimental Evidence for the Functional Geometric Framework. Other Prepositions: Proximity, Coincidence and Being between. Part 3: Putting Saying, Seeing and Acting Together. The Functional Geometric Framework in Action. Putting It all Together. Cross-linguistic and Developmental Implications. Extensions, Links and Conclusions. References.

About the Authors

Kenny R. Coventry is the Reader in Cognitive Science at the University of Plymouth. He co-ordinates the Spatial Language Group, and is a member of the Centre for Thinking and Language.

Simon C. Garrod is a Professor in Psychology at the University of Glasgow. He holds the Chair in Cognitive Psychology and is Director of the Human Communication Research Centre project in Glasgow.

About the Series

Essays in Cognitive Psychology

Essays in Cognitive Psychology is designed to meet the need for rapid publication of brief volumes in cognitive psychology.

Primary topics include perception, movement and action, attention, memory, mental representation, language and problem solving.

Furthermore, the series seeks to define cognitive psychology in its broadest sense, encompassing all topics either informed by, or informing, the study of mental processes. As such, it covers a wide range of subjects including computational approaches to cognition, cognitive neuroscience, social cognition, and cognitive development, as well as areas more traditionally defined as cognitive psychology.

Each volume in the series makes a conceptual contribution to the topic by reviewing and synthesizing the existing research literature, by advancing theory in the area, or by some combination of these missions.

The principal aim is that authors provide an overview of their own highly successful research program in an area.

Volumes also include an assessment of current knowledge and identification of possible future trends in research.

Each book is a self-contained unit supplying the advanced reader with a well-structured review of the work described and evaluated.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Cognitive Psychology