The Representation of Space and Spatial Language: Challenges for Cognitive Science
Among the most impressive of human capacities is the ease with which we express aspects of our spatial experience. Even from the earliest years, it is a trivial task for us to talk about where we are, where we have been, the objects we have encountered and what we have done with them, our location when we did so, and how things turned out. Despite the apparent ease with which we do this, scientists who have probed recently into the nature of the representations underlying this capacity have been impressed with how complex and subtle our knowledge must be in order to connect language with what we perceive and know about the spatial world. For psychologists, understanding the nature of these fundamental representations is, of course, a goal in and of itself; for computer scientists, understanding how human language maps onto spatial representations is a prerequisite for creating computer systems that can receive natural language instructions and carry out natural human actions.