The Motor System Contributes to Comprehension of Abstract Language

Connie Qun Guan, Wanjin Meng, Ru Yao, Arthur Glenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

If language comprehension requires a sensorimotor simulation, how can abstract language be comprehended? We show that preparation to respond in an upward or downward direction affects comprehension of the abstract quantifiers "more and more" and "less and less" as indexed by an N400-like component. Conversely, the semantic content of the sentence affects the motor potential measured immediately before the upward or downward action is initiated. We propose that this bidirectional link between motor system and language arises because the motor system implements forward models that predict the sensory consequences of actions. Because the same movement (e.g., raising the arm) can have multiple forward models for different contexts, the models can make different predictions depending on whether the arm is raised, for example, to place an object or raised as a threat. Thus, different linguistic contexts invoke different forward models, and the predictions constitute different understandings of the language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere75183
JournalPLoS One
Volume8
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 26 2013

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Language
prediction
Linguistics
Semantics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

The Motor System Contributes to Comprehension of Abstract Language. / Guan, Connie Qun; Meng, Wanjin; Yao, Ru; Glenberg, Arthur.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 8, No. 9, e75183, 26.09.2013.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Guan, Connie Qun ; Meng, Wanjin ; Yao, Ru ; Glenberg, Arthur. / The Motor System Contributes to Comprehension of Abstract Language. In: PLoS One. 2013 ; Vol. 8, No. 9.
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