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Développement, Neurocognition, Dysfonctionnements

Themes and actions

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Team webmaster : Véronique BOULENGER, Florence CHENU, Jennifer KRZONOWSKI

Language and action: from embodied cognition to path


  Contact person
Veronique BOULENGER , Alice Catherine ROY

Scientific framework and objectives

In the last two decades, embodied cognition theories have offered a new perspective on the relationship between language and the brain. It is now well established that our phonological and lexical representations are enriched by the sensorimotor experiences of our body with the environment. At the semantic level, processing of action words has been shown to resonate in the motor cortex (Boulenger et al., 2009; Hauk et al., 2004) but also to interfere with or facilitate movement execution (Boulenger et al., 2006, 2008). At the phonological level, studies using passive listening have revealed motor resonance of perceived phonemes (Roy et al., 2008); somatotopy of place of articulation has even been reported in the premotor cortex (Pulvermüller et al., 2006). In this framework, we follow two lines of research:

  1. Embodied cognition in second language processing
  2. Path encoding in language and movement
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The first line of research deals with embodied cognition in second language, with a focus on phonological processing as well as on semantic processing of action verbs. At the phonological level, we aim at determining whether cued speech can help discrimination of phonemes from a foreign language, and if so, whether the facilitation results from a better somatotopy of newly-learned phonemes (as examined with fMRI). At the semantic level, we are interested in the learning of action verbs and investigate whether observing and/or imitating gestures contribute to better verb recall, which may be reflected by stronger involvement of the motor cortex (EEG recordings with analysis of the mu frequency band, as well as kinematic recordings).

The second line of research aims at investigating whether the same rules govern the expression of path in language and motor execution of pointing gestures (as assessed with kinematic recordings in a virtual environment; PROJECTOIRE project). Previous work from C. Imbert in descriptive typology (DTT research team of the lab) have revealed striking similarities in the way languages from very different families (e.g., Mandarin Chinese, Burmese, Popti jacaltek) express path. More precisely, when path is expressed with respect to both a vertical axis and a horizontal axis, what is primarily encoded is verticality: the morpheme of verticality is always closer to the verb stem (or to the main verb in serial verb constructions) than the morpheme referring to horizontality. In our project, we seek to determine whether the primacy of the vertical axis can also be found in biological movements by examine vertical and horizontal components of arm pointing movements towards 45° targets.


  Financial support
  • Contrats doctoraux

    Labex ASLAN
  • Labex ASLAN - Université de Lyon
    PROJECTOIRE : Linguistic trajectory in arm pointing movements

    2017-2018
  • Appel à Projets Pluridisciplinaires Interne (APPI)
    Embodied cognition in second language processing: an fMRI study
    Université Lyon 2
    2017-2019

  Publications
  • De Pasquale, N., Boulenger, V., Roy, A., 2018, "The role of vertical motion in pitch representation. A case study of two French metaphors involved in music description", CIM18: Meaning and Music, Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology, Poznan, Pologne, 17-20 octobre
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