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Abstract Gaytan

Image Schemas in Spatial Cognition: The Spanish preposition en

The Spanish preposition en ‘at, in, on’ can be used to describe spatial relations between a trajector (TR) and a landmark (LM) that in other languages, such as English, would require the use of different prepositions: 1. a. There is milk in the cup. b. Hay leche en la taza. 2. a. There is dew on the grass. b. Hay rocío en el césped. 3. a. I’ll meet you at the door. b. Nos vemos en la puerta.

Following the theory of Image Schemas (Lakoff, 1990), in this paper I propose image schemas which describe the semantics of en ‘at, in, on’. I propose that there is a very abstract image schema which instantiates a relation of COINCIDENCE (C) between a TR and a LM: C(TR, LM). I also propose that there is a second level of schematization with two image schemas which are the basis for other more elaborated schemas: COINCIDENCE WITH MEDIUM (C.M) and COINCIDENCE WITH HALO (C.H). These schemas are exemplified by the following sentences: 7. Había una taza en la mesa ‘there was a cup on the table’ (C.M). 8. La carta estaba en el cajón ‘the letter was in the drawer’: (C.M). 9. La chica está en el mostrador ‘the girl is at the counter’ (C.H.).

The MEDIUM LANDMARK CONFIGURATION is well known in the literature (Hawkins, 1984). The conceptualization HALO is not a LM configuration, but the space that immediately surrounds the LM. The image schema C.M, in turn, is the basis for other schemas which add dimensionality and orientation to the LM configuration: 10. Había una taza en la mesa ‘there was a cup on the table’(C.M2D.HR). 11. Había una mosca en la pared ‘there was a fly on the wall’ (C.M2D.V). 12. La carta estaba en el cajón ‘the letter was in the drawer’: C.M3D.HR. The image schema CM2D.HR adds two-dimensionality and horizontal orientation to the medium configuration. The image schema C.M2D.V adds vertical orientation to the two-dimensional medium configuration, and the image schema C.M3D adds three-dimensionality to the medium configuration, with no orientation highlighted. Finally, I hypothesize that the abstract schema C(TR,LM) is elaborated into more complex schemas to meet the requirements for a more exact location of a TR in relation to a LM.



Hawkins, Bruce. The Semantics of English Prepositions. Ph.D. diss., San Diego: University of California, San Diego, 1984.

Herskovits, Annette. Language and spatial cognition: An interdisciplinary study of the prepositions of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Lakoff, George. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things. What Categories Reveal about the Mind. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. 1990.

Langacker, Ronald. Foundations of cognitive grammar. California: Standford Univerity Press: 1986.