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Examining the Boundaries of Embodiment

Final Report Summary - EXAMBOUNDEMBOD (Examining the Boundaries of Embodiment)

This research program was designed to make three critical contributions: a) to further investigate the embodied nature of cognition, b) to specify the differences in the sensorimotor and affective grounding of a primary-native language (L1) and a secondary-learned language (L2) and c) to examine its implications for language, memory and cognition. The general argument was that the sensorimotor and affective processes grounding L1/L2 are unlikely to be equivalent, that is, they are unlikely to be embodied in the same way. Specifically, we argued that the simulation of bodily-states, activated by linguistic representations is impaired in L2 compared to L1.
The main expected theoretical contributions of this proposal are the implications that this research is likely to have to the current debate on the embodiment perspective on language and cognition. As far as we know, these are among the few studies on embodiment using bilingual samples, which may lend new and additional support to the assumptions that cognition and language are grounded on sensorimotor and affective states. Further, the suggestion that L1/L2 are unlikely to be equally grounded may constitute a critical constraint for such assumptions with significant theoretical implications for the embodiment debate.
The applied contributions of this research are likely to be far reaching. The clarification of the embodied mechanisms underlying the differences in L1/L2 and the costs-benefits associated with the daily use of a second-language particularly in LB, acquires nowadays a relevant significance and a timeless nature. This issue is at the heart of integration policies regarding a multilingual and multicultural European-community and the need to communicate in a common language. Our findings may thus be important to understand the constraints caused by the use of a second-language in everyday discourse for professional, recreational and interpersonal purposes in the context of major international-organizations, scientific-communities, multinational-companies among others, and is likely to have implications for educational/pedagogical policies related to second-language acquisition and use.
Additionally, the fellowship contributed to consolidate the fellow’s potential for acquiring new knowledge and skills and to reach a position of professional maturity. This was accomplished through training-activities and implementation/management of the project. Importantly, the fellow has been using the skills, networks, and experience acquired throughout the project to accomplish other goals. In addition to presenting and publishing her research, she has also been organizing scientific-meetings, acting as reviewer for scientific-journals and grant-committees and successfully obtaining funding for additional research-projects, and grants for Pos-Docs/PhD students. These allowed her to establish her own research team as well as additional funding to continue her research. She as also engaged in teaching and management activities: director of the psychology department, director of the PhD program in psychology and president of the Portuguese Association of Psychology. Currently, she is in a position to further advance her career. She is preparing her habilitation and has applied to an Associate-Professorship.
Overall, the broader goals regarding the project’s contribution to European excellence and European competitiveness are being accomplished through the proposed outreach activities, namely presentations, publications and training of young researchers.