Language is Grounded in Action

Arthur Glenberg, Michael Kaschak

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


This chapter describes what appear to be insurmountable theoretical and empirical problems with the current standard psychological approach to meaning based on abstract, a modal, and arbitrary symbols. It offers an alternative theory of meaning grounded in human action, and the Indexical Hypothesis, which describes how language is understood in terms of action. The chapter reviews some recent research supporting the hypothesis, including the Action-sentence Compatibility Effect, an effect that shows that the mere understanding of a sentence can interfere with taking an action in direction contrary to that implied by the sentence. This direct link between understanding and action is difficult for abstract symbol theory to accommodate, whereas it provides strong support for the Indexical Hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFunctional Features in Language and Space
Subtitle of host publicationInsights from Perception, Categorization, and Development
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191718519
ISBN (Print)0199264333, 9780199264339
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Action
  • Action-sentence compatibility effect
  • Indexical hypothesis
  • Meaning
  • Understanding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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