Dynamics and embodiment in language comprehension

Abstract

Rather than a sequence of logical operations performed on discrete symbols, real-time language comprehension may be better described as continuously changing patterns of neuronal activity in sensory and motor cortices, i.e., a trajectory through state space. The continuity in these dynamics indicates that, in between describable states of mind, much of our linguistic processing does not lend itself to the category labels relied on by classical cognitive science. I will discuss eye-tracking and computer-mouse-tracking evidence for this temporal continuity in spoken word recognition, sentence comprehension, and question answering. In this continuity framework, the embodiment of language falls naturally out of the fact that linguistic processing emerges from the real-time interaction between domain-general perception and action systems -- rather than from a domain-specific language module.

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