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What spatial environments mean

Thora Tenbrink

Abstract


Language is one of the most prominent means of representing human thought. Spatial cognition research has made use of this fact for decades, exploring how humans perceive and understand their spatial environments through language analysis. So far, this research has mainly focused on generic cognitive aspects underlying everyday purposes such as knowing where objects are, how they relate to each other, and how to find one's way to a familiar or unfamiliar location. However, human concepts about space can be threatened by change, as the environment changes. Across the globe, people become increasingly aware of climate-change related threats to their surroundings. For spatial language research, this calls for a fundamental shift in focus, towards the ways in which humans relate to space meaningfully--what spatial environments mean to us, how we respond to them and how we cope with changes and threats to our habitual space. This paper lays out how linguistic research can support building resilience on the basis of meaningful relationships to spatial environments.

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