Embodied Cognition at the Crossroads of
Philosophy, Linguistics, Psychology and Artificial Intelligence

May 13-15, 2021, Cluj-Napoca, ROMANIA

Panel 2

Examining the Link Between Body Parts and Other Concepts – A Developmental, Cross-Cultural, and a Simulated Neural Perspective



Thursday 13/5, 17:00-18:30


Josita Maouene


Josita Maouene, Nitya Sethuraman, Sigal Uziel-Karl

Affiliation: Psychology department, Grand Valley State University, MI, USA; Psychology Department, University of Michigan-Dearborn, MI, USA; Early Childhood Program, Achva Academic College, Israel
Title: The Hands in Early-learned Verbs and body parts associations: A detailed comparison between Hebrew and English
Abstract: The Hands in Early-learned Verbs and body parts associations: A detailed comparison between Hebrew and English At the intersection between development, language, culture, physical activities, metaphors, and categorization, cross-cultural associations between early learned verb and body parts are contributing to the reflection on embodiment. Different laboratories across the world have started to ask adults and children to associates freely between early-learned verbs and body parts in Mandarin Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Hindi, Urdu, Telugu and English. The results suggest that adults and children speakers associate early-learned verbs systematically to a small, overlapping set of body parts organized mostly around head, upper and lower limbs and some trunk. All the studies report another important result: 50% of more of the verbs (between 100 and 169 verbs ) are related to the hand/arm region by 50% or more of the participants. As Hebrew speakers provided more hand parts overall, we present a detailed analysis of the specific associations that 51 Hebrew speakers offered on that body region and compare it to the original study published on 50 English speakers. Both verb lists originate from inventories of the productive vocabulary of the normative 30-month-old child, as per parental report. We asked: What is the hand map that emerges from the two systems of associations with early verbs ? The main analysis consisted of creating a body-part vector for each hand related verb. We defined relatedness as 50% or more agreement between the participants for any combination of the hand parts. Nested body parts (e.g., arm, hand, finger, etc.) were treated separately. For example, the vector for the Hebrew verb lehavi ‘bring’ has the values [36-yad ‘hand’, 8-regel ‘leg’, 2-kaf yad ‘palm’, 2-mo’ax ‘brain’, 1-pe ‘mouth’, 1-rosh ‘head’, 1-gapayim ‘limbs’] and the vector for the English verb bring has the values [38-hand, 9-arm, 2-finger, 1-brain]. We then submitted the two matrices of verbs by hand parts to a correspondence analysis (CoA), a kind of principal component analysis for categorical data. Comparing the 2D semantic spaces yielded by the COAs, the results of Dimension 1 unveils two subdimension in the two associative systems, namely, Hand/Finger-Mouth/verbs opposed to Hand/Leg-Limbs-Body-Eye-Head/verbs. We discuss this first dimension in terms of fine motor versus larger movement, combined with peripersonal space vs extrapersonal space. Dimension 2 is subdivided in Hand/Finger-Leg (+genitals in Hebrew)/verbs opposed to Hand/Eye-Head (+brain and mind in English; +heart, soul in Hebrew)/verbs. This combination is interpreted as a segmentation of hand functions between the lower and upper body. In one cluster, hands, fingers and lower body may be interpreted as used together in vital, meaningful activities related to the activation or interruption of pleasure seeking, love making, and creation of humans; while other cluster, hand, eye, head, heart, soul are involved in activities pertaining to meaning making, communication, soul exploration, the work of the heart and mind. The maps that we draw for both systems all reflect a composite of front and back and first and second person perspectives on the body.


Madhiva Laganti, Josita Maouene

Affiliation: Psychology Department, Ashoka University, Dehli, India; Psychology Department, Grand Valley State University, MI, USA
Title: How verbs relate to body parts? Judgments of Telugu and Hindi speaking children
Abstract: The study of body parts and their actions is particularly useful way to study the origins of verb meanings: their cultural specifics, linguistic, cognitive, metaphoric, and embodied connections. One method consists of asking for associations between verbs and body parts (see Maouene et al., 2006, 2008). Another method is neuroimaging studies which demonstrate that the processing of verbs engages the regions related to bodily effectors along with activation of the motor system (James & Maouene, 2009; Carota, Mosley & Pülvermüller, 2012). To add to this evidence, the present study examined the cross-linguistic differences in perceiving the relation of verbs and body parts in children who are exposed to multilingual cultures. Specifically, we wondered if 5-year-old children who are native speakers of two Indian languages, Telugu and Hindi, would be systematic and coherent in their judgments if asked to provide a body part for common verbs. The 121 early verbs examined for Telugu- speaking children come from 32 transcripts of the speech children hear and produce at home between the age of 15-36 months. The verbs examined for Hindi-speaking children come from the translation from English of 101-early verbs from the Bates-MacArthur Communicative Developmental Inventory (Fenson et al., 1994). 54 verbs overlap across both languages. Subsequently, in a judgment task 42 five-year-old Telugu speakers from an elementary school in Hyderabad and 60 five-year-old Hindi speakers from an elementary schools in Aasawarpur and Delhi, schooled in English, were asked orally and individually in Telugu or Hindi: “What body part do you use when you _____ (verb)?” Overall the children relate verbs systematically to 6 body regions in Telugu and 5 body regions in Hindi. The results indicate that out of the 21 body parts, six regions accounted for 94.8% of the judgments in Telugu children with a threshold at 50% agreement or more: region 1: hand-verbs (67 verbs), region 2: mouth-verbs (25 verbs); region 3: leg-verbs (15 verbs); region 4: eye-verbs (3 verbs); region 5: ear-verbs (2 verbs), region 6 head verb (1), while 8 verbs belonged to multiple regions. The Hindi children provided 24 distinct body parts. Further, out of the 24 body parts, five body regions accounted for 89.1% of judgments in Hindi children with a threshold of 50% agreement or more: region 1: hand-verbs (62 verbs), region: mouth- verbs (7 verbs); region 3: leg-verbs (15 verbs); region 4: eye-verbs (4 verbs); region 5: ear-verbs (2 verbs), while 3 verbs belonged to multiple regions. A 2D solution of a reduction dimension on the matrix of 121 verbs by 21 body parts for Telugu children and 101 verbs by 24 body parts for Hindi children led to an interpretation of the verbs clusters in terms of the sensori-motor origin of the cognitive systems. Dimension 1 separates verbs related to different parts of the head (ear, mouth, eye, mind, brain) (dimension 1) used in functions related to sound emission and reception, communication, and ingestion from verbs involving the upper and lower limbs used in functions of propelling the body, or contact with, or creation of objects (dimension 2). Differences in both systems are also examined, pointing to the interaction of embodiment with culture and language in multilingual children.


Sigal Uziel-Karl

Affiliation: Early Childhood Program, Achva Academic College, Israel
Title: Verb-body part Associations of Intellectually Disabled Adults as Compared with TLD Children: Evidence from Hebrew
Abstract: Verb-body part Associations of Intellectually Disabled Adults as Compared with TLD Children: Evidence from Hebrew The Embodiment Hypothesis contends that the physical body forms a link between the world and the mind (Wilson Wilson & Foglia, 2002(. Research from diverse fields suggests that using knowledge of the physical world to construct linguistic knowledge is particularly relevant to verbs: (1) Some concrete verbs are about actions done by specific body parts (we look with our eyes); (2) Many early verbs denote bodily activities (e.g., bathing, eating, toileting); (3) Cognitive neuro-imaging studies point to a link between the presentation of a verb and the activation of specific motor areas in the brain involved in producing the action labeled by that verb; (4) Adult verb meanings seem likely to have their developmental origins in children’s sensory-motor interactions in the world; (5) In sign languages, the use of physical information to build linguistic knowledge has proven particularly relevant for verbs; (6) Previous studies on verb – body-part associations report a tendency to systematically link verbs to body areas, and finally, (7) Research has established a close link between motor and linguistic development in early life (e.g., facial gesture studies). Individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) are characterized by lower cognitive and linguistic abilities than the general population, and they are generally assumed to be less familiar with their body and its functions. The present study compares the verb – body-part associations made by 26 Hebrew-speaking adults with mild intellectual disability (ID) aged 23-65 with the corresponding associations made by 150 Hebrew speaking children ages 4-6. Participants of both groups were asked to freely associate body-parts with 17 most frequently used verbs in the input to children. The following findings emerged: With age, children increase the overall number of body parts and the level of detail of body-parts linked with particular verbs; Individuals with ID provide a more limited selection of body parts with less detail (hand vs. finger); more concrete responses relating to the place where the action was performed (sleep in bed) or to the objects used to perform it (take the bag); more associative responses (jumping - doing sports) or inappropriate body parts (taking a belly, standing belly). Finally, "don’t know" responses appeared significantly more in individuals with ID than with children. Our discussion focuses on the extent to which the findings reflect the cognitive abilities of each population and its understanding of the self and the body, and the importance of body part knowledge to the acquisition of verb meaning. We discuss the need to develop physical literacy among people with intellectual disability and to deepen their familiarity with their body. Finally, we discuss the implications of the findings to diagnosing and treating individuals with disabilities (linguistic and motor).


Mounir Maouene

Affiliation: Department of computer science, ENSAT, Abdelmalek Essaadi’s University, Tangier, Morocco
Title: A Graph theoretical analysis of the the neurofunctional dissociation between animals and tools and targeted attacks on nodes and on body parts links
Abstract: Neuroimaging studies have shown that animal and tool concepts rely on distinct networks of brain areas. Animal concepts depend predominantly on temporal area, while tool concepts rely more on fronto-temporo-parietal areas. However, the origin of this neurofunctional distinction for processing animals and tools remains unclear. Here we address the dissociation question from a network perspective and from a body part perspective. We suggest that part of the neural distinction between animals and tools reflect differences in their structural semantic networks in general and in particular in their relationship with body parts. Tools are ‘hand heavy’, dependent on mostly one body related link whereas the animal concepts depend on many body parts links for their structure. This redundancy in body parts might affect the robustness of the animal network to targeted attack compared to the tool network. To address these two questions, we build semantic networks from the animal and tool words and features derived from McRae and colleagues‘ behavioral study on feature norms production conducted on a large number of healthy participants (2003, 2005). Based on this data, the animal network is composed of 137 words and 6662 semantic links whereas the tool network has 127 nodes with 4924 semantic links. These two networks are first analyzed through a large number of graph theoretical measures to see how they differ from random networks (or small-worldness properties): centrality, clustering coefficient, average shortest path length. Then they are submitted to random and different targeted attacks. The results indicate that both networks have small world properties, however they differ in all the measures of smallworldness: the small-worldness of animal network is greater than that of the tool network, which is interpreted as more substructures and more rapid information transfer within the network of animal compared to the tool network. In the animal network, there are approximately 100 animal words ranked as the most central ones, all of which have a degree equal to 113 (connections). In the tool network, there are approximately 50 tool words, all of which have the degree equal to 89. Both networks are resistant to random attacks to the nodes however the animal network is more vulnerable to targeted attacks to the most connected nodes and to the body parts based links. The greater vulnerability of the animal network correlates with lesions studies. We discuss the value of theoretical analyses such as these in regard to the embodiment perspective.



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