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Mental Spaces by Gilles Fauconnier

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5th Summary: My summary of Mental Spaces by Gilles Fauconnier

Since it is the topic of this summary, it’s only fair enough to start by explaning what mental spaces are. Mental spaces, as I understand them, are temporary ‘realms’ that are constructed while we connect thought and speech (oral) that happen so that we can both understand/follow a conversation and make ourselves understood to others. They are temporary because  when we finish speaking that utterance we forrget and construct new ones. Mental spaces rely on long term-schematic knowledge. This means that mental spaces are doors that give us access to the encyclopaedic knowledge that we possess. The scope of mental spaces is delimited by the very own boundaries of concepts of the specific kind of information. We form them for practical reasons to make use of language quickly and is also affected by the culture in which we develop as users of a certain language in a community.

The use of mental spaces is completely flexible and this flexiblity has to do with the way in which we use language. For example, if we refer to the past, or if it is somebody else’s opinion about that same fact, or if it’s a conditional, all of these situations will recourse to mental mappping (as with everything that we do with language) but it will activated in different ways and for different reasons to make sense of what other is trying to communicate.

In the article, I learnt that there is a hypothesis which claims that at the neural level, mental spaces are sets of activated neuronal assemblies. This theory states that mental spaces utilise our ‘present’ working memory but that they also rely on long-term memory structures. I find this fascinating and makes sense to me that language creates a type of ‘corpus’ that is always present (unconsciously) inside the brain and knits that with present and past experiences to decode language in different situations (as with the weight example). This brings the idea that mental spaces are framed. This due to the relations of organization, let’s say, the type of genre, and sub-genres that unfold from that type of categorization.

Now, this is not to say that mental spaces are completely delimited by completely separate domains. In fact, a single mental space can be made up of knowledge from a variety of different separate domains. Also, as I stated before, EXPERIENCE is material that we use that helps us build mental spaces.

Conclusion: As discourse moves forward and continues developing, mental spaces proliferate within a NETWORK as more spaces are constructed and more links between their elements are created-THIS IS HOW WE CONSTURCT MEANING, FROM LINGUISTIC UNITS.

Next, the Access Principle. It is also known as the identification principle, and it states that a concrete utterance or expression which makes reference to an element that ‘appears’ in one mental space can be used as a way to access or to enter a COUNTERPART of that element in a different mental space. Ok, I’m going to now try to explain this with an example of my own:

If two elements a and b are linked by a connector F ( b = F(a) ), then element b can be identified by naming, describing, or pointing to, its counterpart a

So, let’s imagine a = teacher b= student F=book. This principle states that we would be able to identify ‘student’ (element b) by naming, describing or pointing to the element ‘teacher’ as its counterpart. A new space structure is internally created ‘a teaches b’, whose roles are filled by the elements ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ correspondingly. A frame is denoted here which is ‘EDUCATION’, and a familiar notation is created: education a’b’.

This notation is used to denote the internal structure added to a mental space ‘M’ which fir the frame EDUCATION. This M value indicated that it serves as a linker in the internal structure of the relationship between the elements ‘a and ‘b. Of course, we are reminded that this relationship is establised because we associate these elements to our background knowledge that is transferred to understand the relationship. This is called optimization.



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