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Brain Lang. 2010 Jan;112(1):54-76. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2008.09.010. Epub 2008 Nov 8.

The Two-Level Theory of verb meaning: An approach to integrating the semantics of action with the mirror neuron system.

Author information

1
Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, Purdue University, W. Lafayette, IN 47907-1353, USA. kemmerer@purdue.edu

Abstract

Verbs have two separate levels of meaning. One level reflects the uniqueness of every verb and is called the "root". The other level consists of a more austere representation that is shared by all the verbs in a given class and is called the "event structure template". We explore the following hypotheses about how, with specific reference to the motor features of action verbs, these two distinct levels of semantic representation might correspond to two distinct levels of the mirror neuron system. Hypothesis 1: Root-level motor features of verb meaning are partially subserved by somatotopically mapped mirror neurons in the left primary motor and/or premotor cortices. Hypothesis 2: Template-level motor features of verb meaning are partially subserved by representationally more schematic mirror neurons in Brodmann area 44 of the left inferior frontal gyrus. Evidence has been accumulating in support of the general neuroanatomical claims made by these two hypotheses-namely, that each level of verb meaning is associated with the designated cortical areas. However, as yet no studies have satisfied all the criteria necessary to support the more specific neurobiological claims made by the two hypotheses-namely, that each level of verb meaning is associated with mirror neurons in the pertinent brain regions. This would require demonstrating that within those regions the same neuronal populations are engaged during (a) the linguistic processing of particular motor features of verb meaning, (b) the execution of actions with the corresponding motor features, and (c) the observation of actions with the corresponding motor features.

PMID:
18996582
PMCID:
PMC2859696
DOI:
10.1016/j.bandl.2008.09.010
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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