Language Is Spatial, Not Special: On the Demise of the Symbolic Approximation Hypothesis

Michael J. Spivey, Daniel C. Richardson, Carlos Zednik

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Cognitive science has made as much progress as possible with theories of discrete amodal symbolic computation that too coarsely approximate the neural processes underlying cognition. We describe a collection of studies indicating that internal cognitive processes are often constructed of analog spatial formats of representation, not unlike the topographic maps that populate so much of mammalian cortex. These findings point to a view of language in which, far from being a specialized module performing computations on discrete logical symbols, linguistic ability is an emergent property that opportunistically draws from the existing topographic representational formats of perceptual and motor processes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Spatial Foundations of Language and Cognition
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191720444
ISBN (Print)9780199553242
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Cognitive linguistics
  • Eye movements
  • Language
  • Memory
  • Space


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