The Horizon: Ontology and Conceptualization

Reference work entry


The horizon is a widely known word that refers to the visual geographic boundary that separates the visible parts of the Earth’s surface from the invisible parts and from the sky extending above the Earth. However, it sometimes also refers to a boundary between here and away. One essence of the horizon is that it is a feature of certain images of the environment. The horizon might best be thought of as “immaterial,” not capable of occupying space, which might explain why some languages may lack terms for the horizon. However, many languages do have one or more terms related to horizon or skyline. This chapter begins by outlining some definitions and concepts of the meaning of the word “horizon” in English and similar words in other languages. Next, we identify four concepts that contribute to the variety of ways in which the term horizon in English and similar terms in other languages are conceptualized and lexicalized. The concepts are illustrated through several landscape images, some of which also help identify factors that can interfere with horizon perception. Four important aspects of horizon cognition are identified that cut across all horizon concepts. Section 5 notes that conceptual dispositions toward the horizon can become more nuanced with exposure to diverse landscape views and awareness of alternative interpretations of the horizon. The chapter ends with a plan for conducting human subject experiments to empirically verify and extend ideas presented in this chapter.


Horizon Sky Earth Landscape Silhouette Occluding edge Vanishing line Ontology 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity at BuffaloAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyOhio UniversityAthensUSA

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