Skip to main content


How pieces of language encode spatial relations

Research Achievements

How pieces of language encode spatial relations

Spatial language provides a window into how the mind represents objects and categorizes the relations between them. Working with developmental psychologist Prof. B. Landau and computational linguist Prof. C. Wilson, IGERT associate Kristen Johannes is investigating how pieces of language (e.g. the preposition "on" or the verb "hang") encode spatial relations throughout the development of speakers of different languages. Her research documents how, in several languages, speakers use a given linguistic expression at different rates to express multiple spatial relations. Further experimental and computational work suggests that the development of this probabilistic relationship between form and meaning depends on the growth of the inventory of language used to express space, so that the probability of using (early-acquired) prepositions is influenced by alternative spatial expressions that include (later-acquired) verbs.