Embodiment in first and second language processing

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URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10900/73775
Dokumentart: Dissertation
Date: 2016
Language: English
Faculty: 7 Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
7 Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Psychologie
Advisor: Kaup, Barbara (Prof.Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2016-11-04
DDC Classifikation: 150 - Psychology
400 - Language and Linguistics
500 - Natural sciences and mathematics
Keywords: Embodiment
Other Keywords:
Language Processing
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For a long time, the field of cognitive psychology was dominated by amodal theories of cognition, which assume that our mind is organized into different modules that work independently of each other (Fodor, 1983). In line with this account, cognition was assumed to be an independent and abstract information processing system, with perception and motor activity working as input and output modules and the language system as its own independent module. However, in the last few decades, a counterpart to amodal theories of cognitive processing has been developed: theories of embodied cognition. The central assumption of these theories of embodied cognition is the premise that cognition is based in the body and its experience with the environment. One well-known and rather specific account within the embodiment framework is the theory of experiential traces (Zwaan & Madden, 2005). According to this account, language comprehension is based on the reactivation of experiential traces that stem from experiencing the corresponding objects, states, or events. Evidence for this account typically derives from action-related compatibility effects. Although there is ample evidence for this account, some issues remain. A few of these problems are addressed in the present dissertation. For instance, although studies on sentence comprehension have provided support for the experiential traces account, it still remains unclear whether these effects can be ascribed to single word effects within these sentences or to the processing of the complete sentences. Therefore, one aim of this dissertation project was to further investigate single word processing. Similarly, it is still unclear whether embodiment effects differ for different word classes. This issue was addressed in Study 1 with a focus on comparing the processing of nouns and verbs. As a result, the embodiment effect for nouns seemed to be rather automatic and task independent, while the processing of verbs provided embodiment effects only in a task in which active processing of the verbs was required. In Studies 2 and 3, the investigation of embodiment effects in single-word processing was extended to the word class of prepositions. The reactivation of experiential traces was shown for different prepositions, but we also found differences among them. Another field with rather sparse evidence for embodiment is the field of second language processing. As of yet, it remains an open question whether the embodiment account can also be applied to second language processing. Therefore, Study 2 addresses first language (L1) and second language (L2) processing in adults, while Study 3 addresses L1 and L2 processing in schoolchildren. The results provide evidence for the reactivation of experiential traces in L1 and L2 processing. In addition, we found differences between early and late L2 learners, suggesting that early L2 learners are able to acquire the L2 in a similar way as the L1, while the influence of the L1 plays an important role only in late learning of an L2. In sum, the evidence found in this dissertation project supports the experiential traces theory. The language motor compatibility effects obtained in this dissertation project suggest that experiential traces are activated (1) in different word classes as nouns, verbs, as well as spatial prepositions and (2) in L1 and L2 processing.

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