Spatial Frames

Project Proposal, by Zach Tomaszewski

for LING 640G, Fall 2002, taught by Dr. Ben Bergen

Space is the foundation of a number of prevalent conceptual metaphors. Many of these are very basic: HAPPY IS UP, LONG PURPOSEFUL EVENTS ARE JOURNEYS, and the Event Structure metaphor, in which time is understood through spatial terms. Motion, which is distance traveled over time (both understood in terms of space), is also part of a number of metaphors and frames, such as the source-path-goal frame. Obviously, our conception of space has a broad and profound impact on our understanding of a number of different realms.

Yet what is this space conception? What elements does it contain that are mapped through conceptual metaphors? How are those elements structured? Are there different senses of space?

I suspect that space is a frame. To determine the nature of this frame, I plan to look at a long list of English spatial-relation words, such as above, front, up, on, inside, etc. I will consider both my native-speaker intuition of these words and a formal dictionary definition. I believe certain organizational patterns will emerge that will represent spatial "sub-frames", such as those involving the relative position of two objects, movement of an observer, and sides of an object.

I will compare these "sub-frame" structures with those found by other cognitive linguistic explorations of space. I know that different languages have words with different spatial meanings that do not map between languages, but I hope that the "sub-frames" may still map. However, my focus will be on English. Hopefully our independently-generated models of these frames will coincide.

If time permits, I would also like to do a few brief interviews of native-speakers to see if their intuitions match my own.

So, through this process of introspection, literature review, and possible native-speaker interviews, I'll have generated a model of the different "sub-frames" of space, which includes the relevant words, mappable elements, and assumptions.

I will then ponder what ramifications these "sub-frames" have for the use of space in conceptual metaphor. What is the relationship between the frames, if any? Is there really a salient difference between these "sub-frames" when it comes to choosing one to use in a metaphor? Can only parts of these frames map, or are they basic enough that they map in their entirety? Does awareness of these "sub-frames" aid us in any way in understanding spatially-grounded conceptual metaphors?