Conceptual Projection and Middle Spaces

40 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2008

See all articles by Gilles Fauconnier

Gilles Fauconnier

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Cognitive Science

Mark B. Turner

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Cognitive Science

Date Written: October, 27 2008


Conceptual projection from one mental space to another always involves projection to "middle" spaces-abstract "generic" middle spaces or richer "blended" middle spaces. Projection to a middle space is a general cognitive process, operating uniformly at different levels of abstraction and under superficially divergent contextual circumstances. Middle spaces are indispensable sites for central mental and linguistic work. The process of blending is in particular a fundamental and general cognitive process, running over many (conceivably all) cognitive phenomena, including categorization, the making of hypotheses, inference, the origin and combining of grammatical constructions, analogy, metaphor, and narrative. Blending is not secondary to these phenomena but prerequisite, and its operation is not restricted to any one of these phenomena. We give evidence for blending from a wide range of data that includes everyday language, idioms, literary metaphor, non-verbal conceptualization of action, creative thought in mathematics, evolution of socio-cultural models, jokes, and advertising. Blending is in general invisible to consciousness and detectable only on analysis. Blended spaces are routinely necessary for constructing central meanings, inferences, and structures, and for motivating emotions. We show that the blending of highly schematic spaces yields the fusion of grammatical constructions and functional assemblies studied in Cognitive Grammar and Construction Grammar. Finally, recognizing the cognitive import of middle spaces allows us to propose a generalized four-space model of conceptual projection that subsumes a variety of previous models. We explore the consequences of this model for the theory of concept formation.

Introduction 3 I. The four space model 4 II. The phenomenon of blended spaces 5 1. Dante's Inferno 5 2. Regatta 7 3. The riddle of the Buddhist monk 8 4. Getting ahead of oneself 9 5. Tuning in, and other actions 11 6. Complex numbers 12 III. Prototypes of blending and mistaken reductions 14 IV. Further evidence for conceptual projection into a blended space 17 1. President Bush on third base 18 2. President Nixon in France 19 3. Personification 21 V. Category extension 22 VI. Generic spaces 24 VII. Parameters and subschemes 25 VIII. Blending and grammar 30 IX. The concept of a concept 33 Notes 35 References 38

Keywords: blending, conceptual integration, metaphor, mental spaces, analogy, counterfactuals, inference, grammar

Suggested Citation

Fauconnier, Gilles and Turner, Mark B., Conceptual Projection and Middle Spaces (October, 27 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Gilles Fauconnier

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Cognitive Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0515
United States

Mark B. Turner (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Cognitive Science ( email )

10900 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106-7068
United States