A classical way to deal with these problems is to postulate a collection of symbolic conceptual structures that represent the meaning of lexical entities (JACKENDOFF 1983;1990; PUSTEJOVSKY 1995; SOWA 1984). This solution presents many advantages and is more or less shared by most cognitive scientists. However, one must be aware of the fact that it circumvents the problem of meaning construction by the presumption of a predetermined conceptual ontology.
Unfortunately, the conceptual ontology hypothesis is unrealistic from a “hardware” perspective. Such an ontology would duplicate the structure of sensory qualities; the duplication would be necessarily partial and inaccurate, in a way that linguistic performance refutes (GHADAKPOUR 2003).
Our proposal is to reject the postulate of any form of conceptual ontology, without abandoning the idea that the use of symbolic structures is necessary to interpret combinatorial and logical phenomena observed in language and in reasoning. Our solution is a procedure through which transient conceptual structures are produced “on the fly” by subjects while producing and comprehending linguistic expressions (GHADAKPOUR 2003). Our model is based on the assumption of a contrast operator which permits the application of topological relations to multi-modal high-dimensional perceptual representations, and produces transitory representations used in semantic processing.
In our model, the conceptual system plays the crucial role of an interface between the space of sensory qualities on one side, and symbolic mechanisms of language and of reasoning on the other side. We take seriously the advantages of symbolic models concerning the explanation of grammatical and argumentative phenomena. What we deny is the existence of a symbolic continuity in the processing of language. Because pure symbolic accounts face intractable problems, there must be a “symbolic gap” between language (with combinatorial dependencies like verb/subject or adjective/noun) and reasoning (with logical mechanisms like negation or deduction). The conceptual interface we propose, based on the contrast operator, is precisely what allows sentences to be given a meaning compatible with sensory experience, and reasoning to operate on that form of meaning.
RAY JACKENDOFF, 1983, Semantics and Cognition, MIT Press.
RAY JACKENDOFF, 1990, Semantic Structures, MIT Press.
JAMES PUSTEJOVSKY, 1995, The Generative Lexicon, MIT Press.
JOHN F SOWA, 1984, Conceptual Structures: information processing in mind and machine, Addison-Wesley.