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Representing Direction in Language and Space$
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Emile van der Zee and Jon Slack

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780199260195

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199260195.001.0001

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Defining Spatial Relations: Reconciling Axis and Vector Representations

Defining Spatial Relations: Reconciling Axis and Vector Representations

(p.111) 6 Defining Spatial Relations: Reconciling Axis and Vector Representations
Representing Direction in Language and Space




Oxford University Press

This chapter explores how spatial terms such as above are mapped onto spatial regions, with a particular focus on two types of representation: reference frames and spatial templates. Reference frames are dependent upon an axial system, whereas spatial templates can be best characterised as a vector representation. In support of this idea, the Attentional Vector Sum model is presented. In this model, the direction indicated by a spatial relation is defined as a sum over a population of vectors that are weighted by attention. Conceptualising spatial templates as a vector representation rather than as an axial representation successfully accommodates a number of factors (orientation, placement relative to the topmost point of an object, and distance) that significantly impact the use of spatial relations. Both axis and vector representations are necessary for defining spatial relations, with the hierarchical relationship between reference frames and spatial templates offering a means of coordinating these structures.

Keywords:   spatial relations, axial representations, vector representations, reference frames, spatial templates, axis, vectors, Attentional Vector Sum model, direction

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