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Conference Information

Full Title: DGfS 2014 Workshop: Converging Evidence? Embodied Views of Basic Categories in Language and Cognition

Short Title: EmBasiCats14
Location: Marburg, Germany
Start Date: 05-Mar-2014 - 07-Mar-2014
Contact: Dietmar Zaefferer
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: Converging Evidence? Embodied Views of Basic Categories in Language and Cognition
Workshop at the 36th Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society
March 5-7, 2014, Marburg University, Marburg/Lahn, Germany

Invited Speakers:

Benjamin Bergen (University of California San Diego)
Daniel Casasanto (University of Chicago) (to be confirmed)

In view of the general topic of the 2014 DGfS meeting ‘A God Particle of Language? Theory, Empirical Evidence and the Future of Linguistic Categories’ that aims at the very foundations of human language (its ‘particle zoo’ with its keeper), this workshop looks for converging evidence from different disciplines and methods for hypotheses about those foundations in two domains:

(a) basic conceptual categories in and outside of language, their mental and neural representations and their cross-personal coordination (mind sharing);
(b) embodied and other approaches to understanding those basic conceptual categories in special and conceptual content in general inside and across individual minds and brains.

Assuming that language evolved out of other capacities, the search for basic building blocks will arguably profit from the study of counterparts and possible ancestors in non-linguistic cognition. Given the universality of linguistic categories such as the following, this entails that their non-linguistic counterparts, the relations between them and the corresponding mental and neural representations are worthy objects of investigation:

- Basic Linguistic Categories / Non-linguistic Counterparts
- Frame setting / frame sharing
- Topic identifying / attention sharing
- Focus marking / figure-ground sharing
- Demanding / goal sharing
- Questioning / inquisitiveness sharing
- Asserting / knowledge sharing
- Negating / rejecting, refusing, revoking sharing
- Conditionalizing / relativizing, localizing
- Weak modalization / abilities, options, possibilities
- Strong modalization / constraints, coercions, necessities

In view of the notorious problems of pinning down conceptual content, the claim that concepts are ‘represented in human memory by the sensorimotor systems that underlie interaction with the outside world’ (Embodied Cognition; Pecher & Zwaan 2005) is definitely good news: It opens up a new way of empirically investigating concepts and their linguistic activation patterns.

Whereas the debate between fierce proponents and opponents of embodiment is far from being settled (Willems & Francken 2012) the existence of reliably replicable embodiment effects is now safely enough established (at least for object and motion concepts) to move on and to ask questions like the ones this workshop is meant to address:

- Which basic categories of language in special and of cognition in general are embodied to what extent and in what way?
- To what extent and how does a double embodiment of language (perceptible form and conceptual content) constrain the space for (basic) categories of possible languages?

Data from research on gesture and sign as well as spoken language (Zaefferer & Bach 2011) suggest that understanding the precise nature of the mental representations of basic categories can be informed by embodiment. The primary goal of the workshop is to dig up converging evidence on the nature of the above categories by drawing on the different relevant disciplines.


Pecher, D. & Zwaan, R. A. 2005. Grounding Cognition: The Role of Perception and Action in Memory, Language, and Thinking. Cambridge University Press.
Willems, R.M. & Francken, J.C. 2012. Embodied cognition: taking the next step. Front Psychol. 3:582.
Zaefferer, D. & Bach, P. 2011. The Motor Theory of Action Sentence Semantics: Radial Motion, Illocution, Polarity. Semantics & Philosophy in Europe 4, Bochum.
Linguistic Subfield: Cognitive Science; Neurolinguistics; Philosophy of Language; Psycholinguistics; Typology
LL Issue: 24.3258

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