Here's a quote:
our understanding of linguistic expressions is not solely an epistemic attitude; it is ﬁrst and foremost a pragmatic attitude directed toward action.So all of language reduces fundamentally to the action system?
One caveat is important. Whereas we focus on the relation between language and action, we do not claim that all language phenomena can be accommodated by action systems. Even within an embodied approach to language, there is strong evidence for contributions to language comprehension by perceptual systems
Whew! I was going to have to quote Pillsbury again:
A reader of some of the texts lately published would be inclined to believe that there was nothing in consciousness but movement, and that the presence of sense organs, or of sensory and associatory tracts in the cortex was at the least a mistake on the part of the Creator” (Pillsbury, 1911) (p. 83)On page 906 we get to learn about the Action-Sentence Compatibility Effect (ACE), Glenberg's baby. This is where a sentence that implies motion in one direction (He pushed the box away) facilitates responses (button presses) that are directed away from the subject and interferes with responses that are toward the subject.
The ACE is a favorite of the embodied camp. They want to argue that this means that the meaning of say push is grounded in actual pushing movements that must be reactivated to accomplish understanding. The ACE is interesting but not surprising nor conclusive. Just because two things are correlated (the meaning of the word push and the motor program for pushing) doesn't mean one is dependent on the other; one could exist without the other. Again, think "fly", "slither", "coil", etc. etc. Or think of it this way. If I blew a puff of air in your eye every time I said the phrase "there is not a giraffe standing next to me", before long I could elicit an eye blink simply by uttering the phrase. Furthermore, I could probably measure a There-Is-Not-A-Giraffe-Standing-Next-To-Me-Eyeblink Compatibility Effect (the TINAGSNTMECE) by asking subjects to respond either by opening their eyes wider or by closing them to indicate their decision. This does not mean that the eye blink embodies the meaning of the phrase. It just means that there is an association between the phrase and the action. Glenberg's ACE simply highjacks an existing association that happens to involve action-word pairs that have not only a "pragmatic" association but also an "epistemic" relation, to use their terminology, and calls them one and the same.
Another study that GandG highlight as further evidence for an ACE-like effect makes my point. Here is the relevant paragraph:
Zwaan and Taylor (2006) obtained similar results using a radically different ACE-type of procedure. Participants in their experiments turned a dial clockwise or counterclockwise to advance through a text. If the meaning of a phrase (e.g., “he turned the volume down”) conﬂicted with the required hand movement, reading of that phrase was slowed.Unlike in Glenberg's ACE procedure, Zwaan and Taylor showed that arbitrary pairings between phrases and actions show the same effect (more like the eyeblink example). Yes, some volume controls involve knob rotation, but others involve pressing a button, increasing/decreasing air pressure passing through the larynx, covering or cupping your ears, or placing your hand over your friend's mouth. When you read the phrase, "he turned the volume down" did you simultaneously simulate counterclockwise rotation, button pressing, relaxation of your diaphram, covering your ears, and covering your friend's mouth in order to understand the meaning of the phrase?
GandG also selectively site data in support of their claims while obscuring important details:
Bak and Hodges (2003) discuss how degeneration of the motor system associated with motor neuron disorder (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- ALS) affects comprehension of action verbs more than nouns.
This is true statement. What is lacking, however, is the fact that Bak and Hodges studied a particular subtype of ALS, that subtype with a dementia component. In fact, high-level cognitive and/or psychiatric deficits appear first in this subtype with motor neuron symptoms appearing only later. I'll let Glenberg and Gallese tell Stephen Hawking that he doesn't understand verbs anymore.
So much for the first two sections.