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URPP Language and Space

Minisymposium Space in Text, Language, Mind: An Interdisciplinary Discussion

April 13, 2018, University of Zurich, Irchel, Winterthurerstr. 190, Y25-H-79



The minisymposium is organized by the URPP "Language and Space" focus group “Spatial References” and aims to gather perspectives on spatial language -- from its relation to spatial cognition to the extraction of spatial concepts from text.

All interested are cordially invited!




09:30 Introduction
09:40 Thora Tenbrink "Language as a representation of spatial thinking:  exploring everyday domains"
10:20 Daniel R. Montello "Natural Language as a Source of Spatial Knowledge"
11:00 Coffee Break
11:20 Jochen L. Leidner "Talking about Geographic Space: From Toponyms to Spatial Expressions"
12:00-13:00 Panel discussion





Thora Tenbrink "Language as a Representation of Spatial Thinking: Exploring Everyday Domains"

I will explore customary ways of talking about space across everyday special-interest domains such as sailing, dancing, and mountaineering. Wherever a domain requires people to interact with space in a specific way, conventions for thinking and talking about space arise that may be unknown or at least highly unusual outside those domains. In sailing, it is almost impossible to talk about ‘forward movement’, due to the various forces acting on the boat; this requires the sailor to calculate a useful course relative to the goal direction. In dancing, creative movement needs to be related to static aspects of the environment, which can be a challenge if dancers are not in a canonical upright position. In this light, I will discuss the role of language as a representation of flexible context-dependent spatial thinking.


Daniel R. Montello "Natural Language as a Source of Spatial Knowledge"

Spatial knowledge is acquired through one or more sources, including direct sensorimotor experience and several indirect sources. An important indirect source is natural language. In my talk, I consider how the source of one’s spatial knowledge influences the nature of that knowledge, focusing on natural language as a source.


Jochen L. Leidner "Talking about Geographic Space: From Toponyms to Spatial Expressions"

Time and Space are basic dimensions of our cognition as human beings, and they structure our lives in practical terms: during our existence, and perhaps in order to exist, we often must or want to refer to places. In this talk, I explore how humans talk about geographic spaces using spatial expressions, and in particular how compositionality on the linguistic level relates to the geo-spatial footprints that correspond to the pragmatic meaning of these expressions in the physical world.


About the Speakers


Thora Tenbrink


Thora Tenbrink is Reader in Cognitive Linguistics, School of Linguistics and English Language (Bangor University, Wales). Dr. Tenbrink’s research interests are in cognitive linguistics, cognitive science, discourse analysis, communication, with a particular focus on the empirical discourse analysis (CODA) to address cognitive science issues and communication.

Dan Montello


Daniel R. Montello is Professor at the Department of Geography and an affiliated faculty member at the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA. Dr. Montello’s research interests include spatial perception, cognition, and behavior; cognitive issues in cartography and GIS; spatial aspects of social behavior; environmental psychology and behavioral geography.

Jochen L. Leidner


Jochen L. Leidner  is Director of Research at Thomson Reuters, where he leads the  London R&D site, and Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor of Data Analytics at the University of Sheffield.  He is author of the book "Toponym Resolution in Text" (2008) based on his Ph.D. research, which won the first ACM SIGIR Doctoral Consortium Award. Dr. Leidner is also a scientific expert for the European Commission, a Director of Polygon Analytics Ltd. and has published several dozen papers on natural language processing, geographic information systems, information retrieval, and applied machine learning.




Ekaterina Egorova (

Ross Purves (

Weiterführende Informationen

Space in Text, Language, Mind