Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Computer Sciences, Robotics and automatic control

Publication Details

In Proceedings of the 3rd ACL-Sigsem Workshop on The Linguistic Dimensions of Prepositions and their Use in Computational Linguistics Formalisms and Applications, Association for Computational Linguistics. Eds. Arsenijevic, B., Baldwin, T. and Trawinski, B.


The paper examines how people’s judgements of proximity between two objects are influenced by the presence of a third object. In an experiment participants were presented with images containing three shapes in different relative positions, and asked to rate the acceptability of a locative expression such as ‘the circle is near the triangle’ as descriptions of those images. The results showed an interaction between the relative positions of objects and the linguistic roles that those objects play in the locative expression: proximity was a decreasing function of the distance between the object in the head position in the expression and that in the relative clause position, and an increasing function the distance between the head and the third, distractor object. This finding leads us to a new account for the semantics of spatial prepositions such as near.