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Do concepts in our brain depend on the language we speak?

Guillermo Montero-Melis (Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Department of Linguistics, and Stockholm University Brain Imaging Centre) has received an International post doc grant of SEK 3.15 million by the Swedish Research Council.

Guillermo Montero-Melis. Photo: Arantxa Hurtado Angé
Guillermo Montero-Melis. Photo: Arantxa Hurtado Angé

Does the language we speak shape our concepts?

One of the most profound questions in cognitive science is how meaning expressed in language relates to the concepts we form in our brains. On one account, language does not shape our concepts; on another, it does. Guillermo Montero Melis has received an International Post doc grant of SEK 3.15 million by the Swedish Reserch Council to investigate this matter, using novel cognitive neuroscience techniques. He will spend most of the next three years doing his post doc research at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

 

Language shapes our concepts - or maybe it doesn't?

This three-year project examines these two conflicting claims by investigating conceptual representation in the brain of speakers of different languages, using neuroimaging techniques as participants watch scenes that are described differently in their respective languages. The project builds on recent advances in analytical techniques of neuroimaging data (machine learning/multivariate pattern analysis) that have dramatically improved our ability to link patterns of brain activity to specific mental representations. In other words, we are capable today to read out the information encoded in our brains.

Study 1 takes a computational approach to represent the relevant cross-linguistic differences. Study 2 tests the hypothesis that concepts in our brain depend on the language we speak, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Study 3 is a review paper that builds on Studies 1 and 2 to spell out the unique scientific possibilities that open up from applying these novel cognitive neuroscience techniques to the study of the representation of meaning in language.

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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Nijmegen, the Netherlands) provides an ideal scientific environment and state-of-the-art infrastructure for the project. Professor Hagoort, a world-renowned authority in the cognitive neuroscience of language, will supervise the research.

Research funding

The Swedish Research Council has granted SEK 3 150 000 as an International post doc for the the research project "Do concepts in our brain depend on the language we speak?".

Guillermo Montero-Melis

Guillermo Montero Melis defended his thesis Thoughts in Motion. The Role of Long-Term L1 and Short-Term L2 Experience when Talking and Thinking of Caused Motion (2017). He currently holds a post doc-position at the Department of Swedish and Multilingualism. From 2019 he will be affiliated with The Department of Linguistics at Stockholm University and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

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