Syntactic Structures as Descriptions of Sensorimotor Processes
Keywords: embodied cognition, generative syntax, neural models of language, reaching-to-grasp, sensorimotor processing
AbstractIn this paper I propose a hypothesis linking elements of a model of theoretical syntax with neural mechanisms in the domain of sensorimotor processing. The syntactic framework I adopt to express this linking hypothesis is Chomsky’s Minimalism: I propose that the language-independent ’Logical Form’ (LF) of a sentence reporting a concrete episode in the world can be interpreted as a detailed description of the sensorimotor processes involved in apprehending that episode. The hypothesis is motivated by a detailed study of one particular episode, in which an agent grasps a target object. There are striking similarities between the LF structure of transitive sentences describing this episode and the structure of the sensorimotor processes through which it is apprehended by an observer. The neural interpretation of Minimalist LF structure allows it to incorporate insights from empiricist accounts of syntax, relating to sentence processing and to the learning of syntactic constructions.
Authors who submit to and publish with BIOLINGUISTICS agree to the following terms:
- The author(s) retain(s) copyright and grant(s) the journal the right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons CC-BY License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in BIOLINGUISTICS.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., archiving a format-free manuscript in institutional repositories, on their personal website, or a preprint server such as LingBuzz, PsyArXiv, or similar) prior to and during the submission process, because we believe that this behaviour can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (see The Effect of Open Access).