The missing link in the embodiment of syntax: Prosody

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Neurolinguistic theories are challenged by the amodal abstract representations assumed by linguists. Embodied linguistics offers a conceptualization of the relationship between linguistic representation, experience, and the brain. Findings correlating brain activation patterns with referential features of words (e.g., body parts), suggest that the mechanism underlying linguistic embodiment is an "action-perception simulation". This mechanism accounts for embodied representation of words, but is harder to adapt to syntactic abstractions. We suggest that prosody is the missing link. Prosody is a sensory-motor phenomenon that can evoke an "action-perception simulation" that underpins the syntax-experience-brain association. Our review discusses different embodiment models and then integrates psycholinguistic and neurocognitive studies into a new approach to linguistic embodiment. We propose a novel implementation of the syntax-experience-brain relationship via the mapping between the temporo-spectral aspects of speech prosody and temporo-spectral patterns of synchronized behavior of neural populations. We discuss the potential implications for psycho- and neuro-linguistic research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-102
Number of pages12
JournalBrain and Language
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Inc.


  • Embodiment
  • Grounded cognition
  • Neuronal oscillations
  • Prosody
  • Syntax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


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