Mental Spaces

Gilles Fauconnier

in The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199738632
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Mental Spaces

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Mental spaces are very partial assemblies constructed as we think and talk for purposes of local understanding and action. It has been hypothesized that at the neural level, mental spaces are sets of activated neuronal assemblies and that the connections between elements correspond to coactivation-bindings. On this view, mental spaces operate in working memory but are built up partly by activating structures available from long-term memory. A crucial property of language, cognitive constructions, and conceptual links is the access principle (also called the identification principle). The cases of referential opacity and transparency noted by many scholars for propositional attitudes turn out to be only special instances of the more general access principle. Spoken languages offer considerable evidence for mental space organization. But interestingly, independent evidence is also available from sign languages, such as American Sign Language, which operate in a different modality, visual-gestural rather than oral-auditory. This article also discusses tense and mood and the many linguistic devices for guiding the construction and connection of mental spaces.

Keywords: American Sign Language; mental spaces; working memory; access principle; referential opacity; tense; mood

Article.  8497 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics

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