Document Type

Conference Paper


This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only



Publication Details

Poster presented at the International Conference on Spatial Cognition 2010, Mt. Hood/Portland, Oregon, USA, August 15-19.


People often refer to objects by describing the object's spatial location relative to another object, e.g. the book on the right of the table. This type of referring expression is called a spatial locative expression. Spatial locatives have three major components: (1) the target object that is being located (the book), (2) the landmark object relative to which the target is being located (the table), and (3) the description of the spatial relationship that exists between the target and the landmark (on the right of ). In English spatial relationships are often described using spatial prepositions. The set of English prepositions that describe static relationships between a target and a landmark can be divided into two sets: (1) those that denote topologically defined relationships, e.g. at, on, in, and (2) those that describe directional relationships, e.g. left of, right of, front of. Interestingly, the topological and directional spatial prepositions are often combined into composite spatial terms: at the right of, on the right of. This raises the question of what motivates the uses of one topological preposition over another in the planning of composite spatial terms. Contribution: This paper describes an experiment that investigates the semantic distinctions marked by the use of different topological prepositions in composite directional spatial terms.