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Mental Spaces By Gilles Fauconnier Gilles Fauconnier as a person His name is pronounced [il fo.k.nje].

He is a French linguist currently working in the US as a professor at UC San Diego in the department of Cognitive Science. His work with Mark Turner founded the theory of conceptual blending. His works include: The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities (with Mark Turner) Mappings in Thought and Language Mental spaces: Aspects of meaning construction in natural language Lakoff and Sweetser on Mental Spaces The more traditional theories assume that natural language semantics can be adequately studied with the tools of formal logic. Fauconnier has, however, recognized that the tools of formal logic fail when confronted with the full range of natural language phenomena. He has realized that what is needed instead is a cognitive theory Examples of mental spaces vs formal logic: The following are examples of English language which can be explained by mental spaces but not by formal logic: 1) (Split Self) If I were you, Id hate me. and If I were you, Id hate myself. Both Me and Myself are first person and should refer to the speaker, but they do not. In addition, the self in these two sentences is split one into a part that refers to me and one which refers to you. There is no way in formal logic to explain how this can make sense with two different meanings. 2) (Split Coreference) If Woody Allen had been born twins, they would have been sorry for each other, but he wasnt and so hes only sorry for himself. In this example Woody Allen serves as the antecedent of both they and he. Formal logic also has no way to deal with this. On to mental spaces There is no easy way to explain Fauconniers theory, save to refer to many examples. Take the sentence: 1) In this painting, the girl with the brown eyes has green eyes. In the theory of mental spaces, In the painting is a space builder. Space Builders Space builders set up a mental space in the mind of the reader that is different from the mental space of the real world.

In the case of this example, In the painting sets up the space of the painting. Lets call this space P, and lets call reality R. Having these two mental spaces means that it is possible to have in P a girl who has green eyes, and have in R a counterpart of that girl who herself has brown eyes. An example of mental spaces and presupposition 3) Johns children are blond. This presupposes that John has children. But in the sentence: 4) If John has children, Johns children are blond. It is not presupposed that John has children. In mental space theory the If sets up a mental space that is conditional Call it C that is separate from reality Call it R. In C, John has Children, but the same in not necessarily true in R. Therefore, the clause Johns children are blond is true in C but nor necessarily in R. Two separate spaces of possibility are created. The space that is conditional allows us to consider a possibility other than reality, and therefore to consider the sentence with two distinct possibilities. In example 3), only R can be considered. As a result, the sentence is presupposed to be true in R. An elaboration Now that we have some basis for imagining mental spaces, we can delve more deeply into what mental spaces are made up of. The spaces themselves are domains. Domains are created as we speak or listen, and are not part of grammar. Nevertheless, they are essential to language. Domains are structured by elements, roles, strategies, and relations. Connectors, Triggers, and Targets All three of these are elements of pragmatic function. [Nunberg] shows that we establish links between objects of a different nature for psychological, cultural, or locally pragmatic reasons and that the links thus established allow reference to one object in terms of another appropriately linked to it. Authors/Books Continued So, in this diagram, lets assume that the author is Plato and the books are any of his works. This system of triggers, target, and connectors allows example 5) to mean the same as example 6). 5) Plato is on the top shelf. 6) The books by Plato are on the top shelf. Plato/Works Continued Now, the successful connection that has occurred allows the target to become an antecedent for pronouns and other anaphors, such as in this example: 7) Plato is on the top shelf. It is bound in leather. However, the trigger is also a potential antecedent such as in : 8) Plato is on the top shelf. Youll find that he is a very interesting author.

More interesting, both are possible at the same time. 9) Plato is on the top shelf. It is bound in leather. Youll find that he is a very interesting author. Mental spaces allow us to understand possible worlds. They make us access hopes, dreams, in short, make our imagination work.