Embodied cognition and linguistic comprehension

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (3):294-304 (2010)
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Abstract

Traditionally, the language faculty was supposed to be a device that maps linguistic inputs to semantic or conceptual representations. These representations themselves were supposed to be distinct from the representations manipulated by the hearer’s perceptual and motor systems. Recently this view of language has been challenged by advocates of embodied cognition. Drawing on empirical studies of linguistic comprehension, they have proposed that the language faculty reuses the very representations and processes deployed in perceiving and acting. I review some of the evidence and arguments in favor of the embodied view of language comprehension, and argue that none of it is conclusive. Moreover, the embodied view itself blurs two important distinctions: first, the distinction between linguistic comprehension and its typical consequences; and second, the distinction between representational content and vehicles. Given that these distinctions are well-motivated, we have good reason to reject the embodied view of linguistic understanding.Keywords: Language; Comprehension; Perception; Action; Embodied cognition; Representation.

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Daniel Weiskopf
Georgia State University

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