The question as to how the mind creates “mental images” of concepts and memories, and how we use them in communication and thought, has fascinated philosophers for centuries. While it seems obvious that we acquire the meaning of objects, actions, words and abstract entities through our senses by interacting with our environment, the ques- tion as to how our bodies and environment shape the representation of meaning in mind and brain is still highly controversial in cognitive science. The last two decades have seen a number of exciting developments in this area. The concept of “embodiment”, i. e. the idea that sensory-motor systems can be part of abstract higher-level processes and representations, has penetrated a wide range of scientific fields. As demonstrated in these conference proceedings, the topic is discussed in literature studies, theoretical and computational linguistics, psycholinguistics, and cognitive neuroscience. From Chinese characters to metaphors and Shakespeare – the involvement of sensory-motor representations is part of the debate.
The analysis of every-day usage of language, the measurement of reaction times in laboratory tasks, or imaging the brain activity during language comprehension have provided us with a wealth of data on the role of sensory-motor knowledge in language. However, the excitement over the interdisciplinarity of this research area also comes at a cost: Are we all talking about the same things when we talk about embodiment or the role of sensory-motor systems? While for some researchers embodiment manifests itself in the different usage of verbs in metaphors, others require changes in brain activity in specific parts of the cortex. The conference “Sensory Motor Concepts in Language and Cognition” in Düsseldorf provided an ideal forum to discuss issues like these, and brought together world-leading experts from several relevant disciplines.
It became apparent that the abstract concept of embodiment is itself embodied in different ways in language corpora, reaction times and brain activation. We may not all ask the same questions. But connecting different theoretical approaches will help us to ask better questions, and introducing each other to different methodological approaches will help us answering them. Let us hope that our research will be embodied in more conferences like this in the future.
- Michiel van Elk: Preface
- Liane Ströbel: What’s so fascinating about Sensory-Motor Concepts?
- Liane Ströbel: Sensory-Motor Concepts and Language
- Liane Ströbel: The Diversity of Sensory-Motor Concepts and its Implications
- Liane Ströbel: Sensory-Motor Concepts and Perception
- Raymond W. Gibbs: Experimental and Corpus Studies on Embodied Metaphoric Meaning
- Valentina Cuccio: Inferential Communication in the Embodied Language Paradigm
- Johann-Mattis List, Anselm Terhalle and Daniel Schulzek: Traces of Embodiment in Chinese Character Formation A Frame Approach to the Interaction of Writing, Speaking, and Meaning
- Wolfgang G. Müller: Motion and Emotion. The application of sensory-motor concepts to the representation of emotion in literature
- Gerard Steen: Sensory-Motor Concepts and Metaphor in Usage
- Ralf Naumann: Dynamics in the Brain and Dynamic Frame Theory for Action Verbs
- Sander Lestrade: The place of Place (according to spatial case)
- Andrea Bellavia: Force Change Schemas and Excessive Actions: How High-Level Cognitive Operations Constrain Aspect in Idiomatic Constructions
- Lionel Brunel, Denis Brouillet, Rémy Versace: The Sensory Nature of Knowledge
- Martin V.Bütz and Daniel Zöllner: Towards Grounding Compositional Concept Structures in Self-organizing Neural Encodings
- Alex Tillas: Grounding Cognition: The Role of Language in Thinking
- Olaf Hauk: Postface