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By Timothy E. Moore


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It defines a natural direction—verticality—which can be specified locally anywhere on the earth. Furthermore, there is a natural, terrestrial plane of reference—ground level. This reference plane is also found everywhere on the earth, and in any local area, it is normally flat and roughly perpendicular to the vertical, at least enough so that it can be used quite easily as a reference plane. As invariant aspects of man's environment, ground level and gravity can serve as a natural reference plane and reference direction in P-space.

Another point can be made about certain relational prepositions. Consider the definitions of front and back, and consequently the definitions of in front of-in back of ahead-behind, before-after, and similar pairs of prepositions. It is front that is always defined in a positive way. The front of an object is the facet that contains the perceptual apparatus, as in animals, whereas the back is that facet which does not. The front is the direction towards which an animal moves, and the back is the direction from which an animal moves; front is the positive direction, and back is the negative direction, as discussed above for to and from.

In each case, the object of the preposition serves as a reference location—either a point, line, or plane—for locating other objects. What is less obvious is that the spatial adjectives also require the notion "point of reference": in fact, each adjective has two points of reference. Consider the adjectives high and low. To say The balloon is high (or low) is really to say The balloon is high (or low) off the ground. Implicit in such simple statements is a zero point, an origin, the point of reference from which all measurement is taken.

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