The infinite space inside your head: The birth of conceptual spaces

Some writers are ahead of their time. When Jules Verne published From the Earth to the Moon in 1865, not many of his readers (perhaps not even Verne himself) thought the journey to the moon would ever become reality. But it did. Similar stories can be found in science. The gist of an idea may be born as a metaphor, a way to better understand the object of study itself, a crazy hypothesis about how things could be. This blog series tells one such story. The basic idea is that the concepts we have in our minds form a space, a conceptual space. And not just in an abstract theoretical way, but quite literally so. But let’s start with the basic question: What is a concept?


Aphasia – what now?

As we saw in part one of the article on the topic of aphasia, even though different types of communication disorders exist, some symptoms tend to overlap. In part two, we will examine how clinicians diagnose speech and communication disorders and which factors influence the recovery for diagnosed patients. Here the focus lies on patients who have been admitted to hospital with some kind of neurological damage, such as stroke. In these cases, the language impairments are only a side effect of the actual medical diagnosis and not the reason for seeing a neurologist. In these situations, patients’ language difficulties can be easily overlooked during treatment.


Learning to Communicate in the Virtual World

Screen time is playing a bigger and bigger role in children’s lives. With the rapid development of technology, not only do children spend time watching TV and playing video games, but many in-person interactions are becoming replaced by virtual communication, especially in expat families. The corona pandemic increased the need for video calls to keep in touch with relatives and friends even more. For my daughter and me, video calls with extended family became a daily routine, so much so that I started to wonder about the role this technology was playing in her language development.


‘I am Groot’: Ambiguity is a superpower

Superheroes are fascinating, also for researchers. A philosopher can contemplate how Superman is related to Nietzsche’s ideas of Übermensch. A historian can investigate how the superheroes change together with society, from the white male Superman to Wonder Woman and Black Panther. For a linguist, superheroes are interesting because they help to understand the limits of human language. In a previous post, I wrote about Yoda from Star Wars. His word order is truly alien because it breaks all possible rules. Today it’s the turn for Guardians of the Galaxy, which features several characters from Marvel Comics.


Reviving long-forgotten knowledge

For most of us, the languages that we are — primarily or exclusively —exposed to as a child, becomes our native languages as an adult. This, of course, does not come as a surprise, nor as breaking news. It is almost always the case that, from the moment children are born until they start school, they are raised in a natural environment where they are constantly in interaction with the languages of their parents, and, if different, the languages of their society. Thus, their birth languages as infants become their dominant languages as adults. However, for some children, namely adoptees, this is not the case.