Peter Gärdenfors

Peter Gärdenfors is Professor of Cognitive Science at Lund University, Sweden. He is the author of Conceptual Spaces: The Geometry of Thought (MIT Press) and other books.

  • The Geometry of Meaning

    The Geometry of Meaning

    Semantics Based on Conceptual Spaces

    Peter Gärdenfors

    A novel cognitive theory of semantics that proposes that the meanings of words can be described in terms of geometric structures.

    In The Geometry of Meaning, Peter Gärdenfors proposes a theory of semantics that bridges cognitive science and linguistics and shows how theories of cognitive processes, in particular concept formation, can be exploited in a general semantic model. He argues that our minds organize the information involved in communicative acts in a format that can be modeled in geometric or topological terms—in what he terms conceptual spaces, extending the theory he presented in an earlier book by that name.

    Many semantic theories consider the meanings of words as relatively stable and independent of the communicative context. Gärdenfors focuses instead on how various forms of communication establish a system of meanings that becomes shared between interlocutors. He argues that these “meetings of mind” depend on the underlying geometric structures, and that these structures facilitate language learning. Turning to lexical semantics, Gärdenfors argues that a unified theory of word meaning can be developed by using conceptual spaces. He shows that the meaning of different word classes can be given a cognitive grounding, and offers semantic analyses of nouns, adjectives, verbs, and prepositions. He also presents models of how the meanings of words are composed to form new meanings and of the basic semantic role of sentences. Finally, he considers the future implications of his theory for robot semantics and the Semantic Web.

    • Hardcover $39.00 £32.00
    • Paperback $25.00 £20.00
  • Conceptual Spaces

    Conceptual Spaces

    The Geometry of Thought

    Peter Gärdenfors

    Within cognitive science, two approaches currently dominate the problem of modeling representations. The symbolic approach views cognition as computation involving symbolic manipulation. Connectionism, a special case of associationism, models associations using artificial neuron networks. Peter Gärdenfors offers his theory of conceptual representations as a bridge between the symbolic and connectionist approaches.

    Symbolic representation is particularly weak at modeling concept learning, which is paramount for understanding many cognitive phenomena. Concept learning is closely tied to the notion of similarity, which is also poorly served by the symbolic approach. Gärdenfors's theory of conceptual spaces presents a framework for representing information on the conceptual level. A conceptual space is built up from geometrical structures based on a number of quality dimensions. The main applications of the theory are on the constructive side of cognitive science: as a constructive model the theory can be applied to the development of artificial systems capable of solving cognitive tasks. Gärdenfors also shows how conceptual spaces can serve as an explanatory framework for a number of empirical theories, in particular those concerning concept formation, induction, and semantics. His aim is to present a coherent research program that can be used as a basis for more detailed investigations.

    • Hardcover $48.00 £40.00
    • Paperback $35.00 £28.00