chapter  2
Perceptual simulation of space, speed and time in language
ByLaura J. Speed, Gabriella Vigliocco
Pages 17

How do we map words and sentences to their corresponding concepts in order to comprehend and communicate effectively? Embodied theories of language propose that understanding meaning in language requires mental simulation in the brain’s modality-specific systems, the same systems involved in perceiving and acting in the world (e.g. Barsalou, 1999; Stanfield & Zwaan, 2001; Glenberg & Kaschak, 2002). This mental simulation grounds language in human experience and moves away from a perspective in which linguistic meaning is solely symbolic and abstract (e.g. Landauer & Dumais, 1997; Lund & Burgess, 1996). Embodied theorists argue that amodal theories of meaning are missing the vital link between meaning in language and experience in the world. In others words, it is unclear how meaning is understood if language is composed of only arbitrary symbols with no link to referents in the world (Harnad, 1990). Instead of transducing experiential information into abstract symbols, it is thought that the experience itself is, in a way, recreated in the brain’s sensory and motor systems (Barsalou, 1999a). In this chapter we review experimental evidence for mental simulation in the brain’s perceptual systems for three types of language comprehension: language that describes space, speed of motion and time.