Toward a theoretical framework for geographic entity types

  • David M. Mark
Cultural Differences in Spatial Cognition
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 716)


This paper develops a theoretical framework for defining and representing kinds of geographic entities. The “Spatial Data Transfer Standard” (SDTS) of the United States is used. as. a starting point for discussion. SDTS defines entities in the world, objects as mathematical or computational constructs, and features as both entities and the objects that represent them. The paper reviews the central role played by categories in human cognition, and the relationships between categories and words of natural language. Although categories may appear to exist in an objective world, they are more- properly (and conservatively) thought of as existing in human minds and cultures. This means that category definitions and boundaries can be expected to vary in cross-cultural, cross-linguistic, and cross-disciplinary comparisons, and even at an individual level. This in turn implies that development of ‘universal’ entity type schemes will be very difficult. Some of the difficulties are illustrated for the superficiallysimple example of standing water bodies in English, French, and Spanish. Category boundaries appear to differ not only across languages but also geographically within languages. Human subjects testing will likely be required to explore the nature of geographical entity types as cognitive categories.


categories cognition GIS data models natural language cross-linguistic cross-cultural 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. Mark
    • 1
  1. 1.National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis Department of GeographyState University of New York at BuffaloBuffalo

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