The debate on whether language comprehension involves the manipulation of abstract symbols or is grounded in perception and action has reached an impasse, with authors from different theoretical persuasions unable to agree on the diagnostic value of empirical findings. To escape this impasse, I propose a pluralist view of cognition that encompasses abstract and grounded symbols. The contributions of these symbol types to language comprehension vary as a function of the degree to which language use is embedded in the environment. I distinguish five levels of embeddedness: demonstration, instruction, projection, displacement, and abstraction. Only through a closer analysis of context will we make significant progress toward understanding language comprehension and cognition in general.

Comprehension, Embodied cognition, Embodiment, Language, Mental representation,
Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Department of Psychology

Zwaan, R.A. (2014). Embodiment and language comprehension: Reframing the discussion. Trends in Cognitive Sciences (Vol. 18, pp. 229–234). doi:10.1016/j.tics.2014.02.008