One of the essential functions of natural language is to express spatial relationships between objects. Linguistic constructs can encode highly complex, relational structures of objects, spatial relations between them, and patterns of motion through space relative to some reference point. Spatial language understanding is useful in many areas of research endeavors relating to and/or making use of human language, including robotics, navigation, geographic information systems, traffic management, natural language understanding and translation, and query answering systems. Compared to other semantically specialized linguistic tasks, standardizing tasks related to spatial language seems to be more challenging as it is harder to obtain an agreeable set of concepts and relationships and a formal spatial meaning representation that is domain independent, as an example this could be compared to temporal relations. This has made research results on spatial language learning and reasoning diverse, task-specific and, to some extent, not comparable. While formal meaning representation is a general issue for language understanding, formalizing spatial concepts and building formal reasoning models based on those constitute challenging research problems with a wealth of prior foundational research that can be exploited and linked to language understanding. Existing qualitative and quantitative representation and reasoning models can be used for investigation of interoperabiltiy of machine learning and reasoning over spatial semantics. Research endeavors in this area could provide insights into many challenges of language understanding in general. Spatial semantics is also very well-connected and relevant to visualization of natural language, central to dealing with configurations in the physical world and motivating a combination of vision and language for richer spatial understanding. This workshop highlights some of the above aspects of computational spatial language understanding including the following four areas:

  1. Spatial Language Meaning Representation (Continuous, Symbolic)
  2. Spatial Language Learning
  3. Spatial Language Reasoning
  4. Combining Vision and Language for Spatial Understanding

Spatial Language Meaning Representation and Ontologies includes cognitive and linguistically motivated spatial knowledge representation and ontologies, qualitative and quantitative representation models used for meaning representation of language, related annotation schemes and efforts for creating specialized corpora. Moreover, continuous meaning representations for spatial concepts is another aspect to be highlighted in the workshop. Spatial Language Learning considers symbolic and sub-symbolic techniques and computational models for spatial information extraction, semantic parsing, spatial co-reference within a global context that includes discourse and pragmatics from data or formal models. Regarding the reasoning aspect, the workshop emphasizes the role of qualitative and quantitative formal representations in helping spatial reasoning based on natural language and the possibility of learning such representations from data; whether we need these formal representations to support reasoning or there are other alternative ideas. For the multimodality aspect, answers to questions such as the following will be discussed: (1) Which representations are appropriate for different modalities and which ones are modality independent? (2) How can we exploit visual information for spatial language learning and reasoning? All related applications are welcome, including text to scene conversion, spatial and visual question answering, spatial understanding in multimodal setting for robotics and navigation tasks, etc. The workshop aims to initiate discussions across fields dealing with spatial language along with other modalities. The desired outcome is identification of shared as well as unique challenges, problems and future directions across the fields and various application domains related to spatial language understanding. The specific areas include but are not limited to:

Invited Speakers


We encourage contributions with either a technical paper (NAACL style, 8 pages without references), a position statement (NAACL style, 4 pages maximum) or an abstract of a published work. NAACL Style files available here. Please make submissions via Softconf here.

Important Dates


9:00-9:10 Opening remarks Parisa Kordjamshidi
9:10-10:10 Keynote Talk. Natural Language Acquisition and Grounding for Embodied Robotic Systems Anthony G. Cohn
10:10-10:30 Accepted Paper. Exploring the Functional and Geometric Bias of Spatial Relations Using Neural Language Models Simon Dobnik, Mehdi Ghanimifard and John Kelleher
10:30-11:00 Coffee Break
11:00-11:20 Accepted Paper. Building and Learning Structures in a Situated Blocks World Through Deep Language Understanding Ian Perera, James Allen, Choh Man Teng and Lucian Galescu
11:20-11:40 Accepted Paper. Computational Models for Spatial PrepositionsGeorgiy Platonov and Lenhart Schubert
11:40-12:00 Accepted Paper. Lexical Conceptual Structure of Literal and Metaphorical Spatial Language: A Case Study of "Push"Bonnie Dorr and Mari Olsen
12:00-12:20 Accepted Paper. Representing Spatial Relations in FrameNet Miriam R L Petruck and Michael J Ellsworth
12:20-2:10 Lunch Break
2:10-3:10 Keynote Talk. Understanding Spatial Expressions James F. Allen
03:10-03:30 Accepted Paper. Points, Paths, and Playscapes: Large-scale Spatial Language Understanding Tasks Set in the Real World Jason Baldridge, Tania Bedrax-Weiss, Daphne Luong, Srini Narayanan, Bo Pang, Fernando Pereira, Radu Soricut, Michael Tseng and Yuan Zhang
3:30-4:00 Coffee Break
04:00-04:20 Accepted Paper. Anaphora Resolution for Improving Spatial Relation Extraction from TextUmar Manzoor and Parisa Kordjamshidi
04:20-04:40 Accepted Paper. The Case for Systematically Derived Spatial Language UsageBonnie Dorr and Clare Voss
4:40-5:30 Panel: James Pustejovsky, Marie-Francine Moens, James F. Allen, Bonnie Dorr, Anthony G. Cohn

Accepted Papers

Organizing Committee

  • Parisa Kordjamshidi
  • Tulane University, IHMC pkordjam@tulane.edu
  • Archna Bhatia
  • IHMC abhatia@ihmc.us
  • James Pustejovsky
  • Brandeis University jamesp@cs.brandeis.edu
  • Marie-Francine Moens
  • KULeuven sien.moens@cs.kuleuven.be

    Program Committee

  • John A. Bateman
  • Universitat Bremen
  • Anthony Cohn
  • University of Leeds
  • Steven Bethard
  • The University of Arizona
  • Raffaella Bernardi
  • University of Trento
  • Mehul Bhatt
  • Ă–rebro University, University of Bremen
  • Yonatan Bisk
  • University of Washington
  • Johan Bos
  • University of Groningen
  • Joyce Chai
  • Michigan State University
  • Angel Xuan Chang
  • Stanford University
  • Guillem Collell
  • KU Leuven
  • Zoe Falomir
  • Universitat Bremen
  • Julia Hockenmaier
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Kirk Roberts
  • The University of Texas
  • Manolis Savva
  • Princeton University
  • Martijn van Otterlo
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Bonnie Dorr
  • IHMC
  • Bruno Martins
  • University of Lisbon
  • Mari Broman Olsen
  • Microsoft
  • Clare Voss
  • ARL
  • Umar Manzoor
  • Tulane University