The history of SPACE between science and ordinary language: What can words tell us about conceptual change?

Lin Chalozin-Dovrat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Lexical evidence reveals that ordinary notions of space underwent a dramatic change from the late seventeenth century into the first decades of the nineteenth century: the word’s core meaning metamorphosed from INTERVAL to DIMENSION, revolutionizing relations between ordinary conceptions of time and space. Analyzing instances of the word in French over the years 1330– 1835 indicates this conceptual change of SPACE was concurrent with growing interest in metaphysics and natural philosophy and echoed debates—provoked by Newton’s Principia (1687)—over the precise nature of space. Employing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, I show how changes in philosophical and scientific theory reshaped the general lexicon. I argue that ordinary lexical mechanisms largely determine the manner of science’s dissemination into culture and propose a model accounting for such changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-277
Number of pages34
JournalPerspectives on Science
Volume27
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

Funding

FundersFunder number
Cohn Institute for History
Tel Aviv University

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