What's in a schema? Bodily mimesis and the grounding of language

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


The chapter defines mimetic schemas as dynamic, concrete and preverbal representations, involving the body image, which are accessible to consciousness, and pre-reflectively shared in a community. Mimetic schemas derive from a uniquely human capacity for bodily mimesis (Donald 1991; Zlatev, Persson and Gardenfors 2005) and are argued to play a key role in language acquisition, language evolution and the linking of phenomenal experience and shared meaning. In this sense they are suggested to provide a "grounding" of language which is more adequate than that of image schemas. By comparing the two concepts along six different dimensions: representation, accessibility to consciousness, level of abstractness, dynamicity, sensory modality and (inter) subjectivity the term "image schema" is shown to be highly polysemous, which is problematic for a concept that purports to be foundational within Cognitive Linguistics.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • bodily mimesis, consciousness, "grounding", intersubjectivity, mimetic schemas, representation, language acquisition
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom Perception To Meaning: Image Schemas In Cognitive Linguistics
PublisherDe Gruyter
ISBN (Print)978-3-11-019753-2
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Publication categoryResearch