Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tim Rohrer: "Image Schemata in the Brain" (2005)

In this article, Tim Rohrer argues that hand metaphors like I found his ideas hard to grasp are understood using the same part of the cortex that plans actual hand movements. He cites evidence from neuroimaging studies.

The article was published in From perception to meaning, which was edited by Beate Hampe and Joseph E. Grady. He just sent me some more of his papers yesterday, including the 2001 presentation of the neuroimaging study that forms an important part of his argumentation.

However, in the present text, Rohrer does not recount very many details about this fMRI study, so I can't say for sure how solid the evidence is. But my first impression after reading his text is that he does seem to have a pretty strong case.

Since I read the text yesterday, some questions have cropped up in my mind, though:
  1. Does this picture hold for anything else than hand metaphors?
  2. To what extent does this say anything about actual language proficiency? (as opposed to some parallel process not necessary for fluent conversation)
  3. He cites several lesion studies that show that people need an intact somatosensory cortex in order to understand words like "hand" and "leg." Can such a brain-damaged person understand hand metaphors?
  4. What about people that are born blind? They use eye metaphors, right?

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