Abstract, emotional and concrete words in the mental lexicon

Project Details

Layman's description

The project aims to obtain a better understanding of how the 'mental lexicon' is structured. Using a linguistic and neurocognitive perspective, the interaction of different kinds of information involved in the processing of different kinds of meaning are studied. Even processing of grammatical meaning associated with inflexional suffixes in Swedish is studied as well as its affect on word accents.

The project will make important contributions to our knowledge of how concrete, abstract and emotional word meanings are represented in the mental lexicon and thereby contribute to an improved general model of word processing. Brain imaging and lesion studies have provided evidence that abstract and concrete concepts are processed differently, with a greater involvement of sensorimotor brain areas in concrete word processing, and a greater dependence of abstract words on classical language processing areas, suggesting a difference in the degree to which abstract and concrete words are related to sensorimotor (in particular visual, auditory) information and contextual/pragmatic meaning representations. The project will tease out the contribution of these different meaning components by varying different types of linguistic information (’prototypical’ sound symbolic patterns, prototypical images and (contextuelly) related words. Linguistic, psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic (ERP-)experiments involving the processing of abstract words (e.g. IDEA), emotional words (e.g. JOY), and concrete words (e.g. DESK) will be used to gain a better understanding of the degree of lexicalization of the different kinds of meaning components. The results will be valuable for the improvement of cognitive linguistic modelling of the mental lexicon. Practical application of the results lies in the development of clinical methods for treatment of language disabilities related to word processing.
Effective start/end date2010/01/012013/12/31


  • Swedish Research Council