Peter Gärdenfors - "Actions and events modelled in conceptual spaces"

Friday, 14 September, 2012 - 09:30 to 11:00

Recording of the speaker's talk at the Barcelona Brain and Technology Summer School, September 2012. Listen also to an interview with this and other speakers at and find even more on these topics at

"Actions and events are central to a semantics of natural language. I present a cognitively based model of these notions. After giving a general presentation of the theory of conceptual spaces, I suggest how the analysis of perceptual concepts can be extended to actions and events. First, I argue that action space can be analyzed in the same way as e.g. color space or shape space. The hypothesis is that the categorization of actions depends, to a large extent, on the perception of forces. In line with this, I describe an action as a pattern of forces. An action category is identified as a convex region of action space. I review some indirect evidence for this representation. Second, I represent an event as an interaction between a force vector and a result vector. Typically an agent performs an action – i.e., exerts a force – that changes the properties of the patient. Such a model of events is suitable for an analysis of the semantics of verbs. I compare the model to other related attempts from cognitive semantics."