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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter addresses a question at the intersection of language production and semantic memory: what are representations of word meanings like? An important problem this raises is how the abstractions used in thought and language make contact with the world accessed through the senses. Proposals from embodied cognition deny the distinction between sensory representations and processes and conceptual ones. Evidence about the neural basis of conceptual knowledge is reviewed to critically assess the claims of the embodied view, and to support the opposing conclusion that conceptual representations are in part distinct from sensory-motor representations. Furthermore, any shared neural resources drawn on by perceptual and conceptual tasks are not interpretable until their representational properties are described. Instead, research that specifically characterizes supramodal representations in the brain may be the best route to understanding the neural basis of conceptual knowledge.

Keywords: cognitive neuroscience, conceptual knowledge, semantics, words, embodiment, perception, neuroimaging

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