Conceptual Structure

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In semantics, conceptual structure is an autonomous level of cognitive representation postulated by Ray Jackendoff, representing concepts in terms of a small number of conceptual primitives.


Conceptual structure is related to syntactic and phonological structure on the one hand and other, non-linguistic levels of representation (e.g. vision) on the other hand. The theory of conceptual structure is decompositional (because it decomposes meanings in terms of conceptual primitives, see componential analysis), conceptualist (because it identifies meanings with concepts, i.e. mental entities, see meaning theories) and (in its origin) localistic (because it elaborates the idea that notions of location and movement are central in the semantic analysis of verbs and sentences, see localism). Lexical conceptual structure is conceptual structure as determined by the argument structure of verbs.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics

See also


  • Jackendoff, R. 1983. Semantics and cognition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
  • Jackendoff, R. 1987. The status of thematic relations in linguistic theory. Linguistic Inquiriy 18, 369-412.

  • Jackendoff, R. 1990. Semantic Structures. Cambridge, MIT-Press.