Categorisation, Typicality & Object-Specific Features in Spatial Referring Expressions

Various accounts of cognition and semantic representations have highlighted that, for some concepts, different factors may influence category and typicality judgements. In particular, some features may be more salient in categorisation tasks while other features are more salient when assessing typicality. In this paper we explore the extent to which this is the case for English spatial prepositions and discuss the implications for pragmatic strategies and semantic models. We hypothesise that object-specific features — related to object properties and affordances — are more salient in categorisation, while geometric and physical relationships between objects are more salient in typicality judgements. In order to test this hypothesis we conducted a study using virtual environments to collect both category and typicality judgements in 3D scenes. Based on the collected data we cannot verify the hypothesis and conclude that object-specific features appear to be salient in both category and typicality judgements, further evidencing the need to include these types of features in semantic models.

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