Embodiment and Language Comprehension

Authored by: Michael P. Kaschak , John L. Jones , Julie Carranza , Melissa R. Fox

The Routledge Handbook of Embodied Cognition

Print publication date:  May  2014
Online publication date:  April  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415623612
eBook ISBN: 9781315775845
Adobe ISBN: 9781317688662


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The ability to create and convey meaning is an ability that lies at the heart of the human ability to use language. The creation of meaning through language is central to our capacity to accomplish a range of intra- and interpersonal goals, and therefore a theory of “meaning making” (and, “meaning apprehension”) must have a key place in theories that explain the acquisition, comprehension, and production of language (Glenberg and Robertson, 2000). The goal of this chapter is to discuss one account of how language conveys meaning, the embodied approach to language comprehension. The aspect of the embodied approach that has received the most empirical and theoretical attention is the claim that the comprehension of sentences such as, “Meghan gave Michael a pen,” involves the construction of internal sensorimotor simulations of the content of the sentence. In this case, one might simulate a male and a female, and the arm action involved in transferring a pen from one person to another (e.g. Glenberg and Kaschak, 2002). We discuss the evidence for this claim, as well as criticisms of this embodied position. We also draw on recent proposals (e.g. Pickering and Garrod, 2013) to consider other ways that language can be considered “embodied.”

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