Date of Award

Summer 7-22-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

Bhuvana Narasimhan

Second Advisor

Eliana Colunga

Third Advisor

Laura Michaelis-Cummings

Abstract

In contrast to theories of language which conceive of linguistic representations in the mind as amodal symbols that are divorced from the rest of cognition, embodied theories of language contend that knowledge of semantic concepts, relations, and linguistic cues are grounded within the holistic cognitive lives of language users, giving rise to linguistic knowledge that is fundamentally connected to experiences of perception, sensation, action, and other worldly encounters. Empirical evidence, both neurological and behavioral, has been emerging in support of an embodied view of language processing, which encompasses the notion of mental simulation and imagery in response to linguistic stimuli. This paper presents original experimental research that investigates a) how an ongoing mental simulation can affect the processing of a sentence which evokes a new mental simulation, b) the degree of detail in mental simulations of the body that are activated by language of motion, and c) whether the subject pronoun of a sentence can encourage a reader to adopt a particular perspective in their simulation—either as a participant or as an observer—and how this perspective affects their processing speeds. Although statistically inconclusive, the results of the experiment suggest that mental simulations are involved during the processing of language and that when two closely related mental simulations are evoked nearly simultaneously, there occurs a slight processing interference. There was no statistically appreciable effect of the perspective of the subject pronoun on processing.

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