social nature of language

April 16, 2008

One of the theoretical pillars is the hybrid ecology framework is embodied simulation, elaborated in the studies that Gallese refers below. His new paper, dedicated to the social nature of language is generalizing many studies. If to think how it is useful in our experimental ideas, we can think that not only texts, but also acustic or visual artifacts (eg. in Youtube) may trigger actions similarly like we believe the narratives might do.

What seems to be missing from his explanations is how these visual, acustic or verbal cues are triggering different actions ecologically same way like in the environment we evoke different affordances that let us accomplish our intentions and actions.

However, while in his experiments such non-stability shows no relation between certain type of clues and appropriate action statistically, considering this person-specific activation of certain actions seems to be necessary if we are supporting the Ecological psychology framework.

From an uncorrected proof from V. Gallese page:
Mirror neurons and the social nature of language: The neural exploitation hypothesis
Vittorio Gallese

By neural exploitation, social cognition and language can be linked the experiential domain of action.

The perception of shared environment and behaviors helps in maintaining alignment between conversational partners (Clark & Wilkes-Gibbs, 1986; Pickering & Garrod, 2004).

Embodied simulation is a specific mechanism through which the brain/body system models its interactions with the world (Gallese, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006).

Besides visual input, mirror neurons are also activated during the observation of partially hidden actions, when the action outcome can be predicted – the anticipated final goal-states of the motor acts (Umilta et al., 2001).

Nonhuman primates possess the ability to deduce what others know about the world on the basis of ostensive behavioral cues, like the direction of gaze.

Embodied conceptualization mechanism grounds meaning in the situated and experience-dependent systematic interactions with the world (Gallese & Lakoff, 2005)

Barrett et al. (in press) have argued that apparent cognitive complexity of the social domain emerges from the interaction of brain, body and the world, rather than being the outcome of the level of intrinsic complexity of primate species.

Viewing social cognition as an embodied and situated enterprise offers the possibility of new neuroscientific approach to language (Clark, 1997; Barsalou, 1999; Lackoff & Johnsone, 1999).

Meaning is the outcome of our situated interactions with the world.
With the discovery of written language, meaning is amplified as it frees itself from being dependent upon specific instantions of actual experience.

Language evokes the totality of possibilities for action the world puts upon us, and structures action within a web of related meanings.

Our way of being depends what we act, how we do it, and how the world responds to us.

When we speak, by means of the shared neural networks activated by embodied simulation, we experience the presence of others in ourselves and of ourselves in others.

According to the embodiment theory the neural structures presiding over action execution should also play a role in understanding the semantic context of same actions when verbally described.
Action contributes to the sentence comprehension.

The prediction of the embodiment theory of language understanding is that when individuals listen to action-related sentences, their mirror neuron system should be modulated which should influence the primary motor cortex, henceforth the production of movements it controls.

The experimental data shows that processing sentences describing actions activates different sectors of motoneuron system, depending of the effector used in the listened action.

Silent reading of words referring to actions of arm and leg led to the activation of different sectors of pre-motor areas controlling motor acts of the body congruent with the referential meaning of the read action words (Hauk, Johnsrude & Pulvermüller, 2004).

The mirror-neuron system is involved not only in understanding visually presented actions, but also in mapping acustically or visually presented action-related sentences.

The precise functional relevance of mirror neuron system and embodied simulation in the process of language understanding remains unclear.

When in the course of evolution selective pressures led to the emergence of language, the same neural circuits in charge of controlling the hierarchy of goal-related actions might have been exploited to serve the newly acquired function of language syntax.


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