Words: Space and Time

When dealing with actions and concepts, words start losing their concrete grounding in the real world. When a word refers to an object like a dog, there is a concrete object that
can be used by multiple people and there are a class of dogs that could be used to train people to recognize objects. Both these are very important. Have you seen how a child learns a language? The first thing a child is taught are the associations of words to objects. Mother points from time to time to different dogs and utters ‘dog’ this trains the child association of mother’s utterance ‘dog’ to the class of objects she points to. Next comes when other people – father, and anybody else around – also utter ‘dog’ and point to the same class of objects. This trains the child to learn that all these different utterances are really the same. This process of training and learning continues until the child also learns to utter ‘dog’.

With actions like ‘give’ the problem is different. Now there are multiple objects and relationships among objects is involved. When words related to relationships among objects (like ‘mother’, ‘uncle’) and relationships among objects in space and time are involved, the process of training and learning becomes more complex. The concepts of space and time are more difficult to express than simple objects. It is more difficult to train a child to learn ‘morning’ or ‘sleeping time’; or ‘bed room’ or ‘office’.

Most children are first trained to learn about objects (What) and then only are trained about time (When) and space (Where). Once they have basic grounding in What, When, and Where then usually the next training phase of relationships among them starts. In this phase relationships among objects, spaces, and times are elaborated to build abstract concepts like ‘mother’ or ‘mother land’ or ‘mother tongue’ or ‘grand mother’s place’ or ‘father’s office hours’.

An obvious question comes to mind. Objects and words associated with them are the basics of the building blocks for the words. Thus words associated with them are the atomic units in semantics. Are there similar basic elements for space and time?

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