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How the Context Matters. Literal and Figurative Meaning in the Embodied Language Paradigm

  • Authors: Cuccio, V; Ambrosecchia,M; Ferri, F; Carapezza, M; Lo Piparo, F; Fogassi, L; Gallese, V;
  • Publication year: 2014
  • Type: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
  • Key words: Language; Metaphor; Embodied Language Paradigm;
  • OA Link:


The involvement of the sensorimotor system in language understanding has been widely demonstrated. However, the role of context in these studies has only recently started to be addressed. Though words are bearers of a semantic potential, meaning is the product of a pragmatic process. It needs to be situated in a context to be disambiguated. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that embodied simulation occurring during linguistic processing is contextually modulated to the extent that the same sentence, depending on the context of utterance, leads to the activation of different effector-specific brain motor areas. In order to test this hypothesis, we asked subjects to give a motor response with the hand or the foot to the presentation of ambiguous idioms containing action-related words when these are preceded by context sentences. The results directly support our hypothesis only in relation to the comprehension of hand-related action sentences.