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Neural Perspectives on 'Interactional Expertise':

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How flexible is language? To what extent does language 'absorb' (neutralize) individual differences, for example physical interaction, in knowledge acquisition within a domain? Current neuropsychological findings show that conceptual knowledge is embodied. When reading the word 'cinnamon', supportive neural activity includes brain areas usually engaged in perceptual tasks. Such findings suggest that perceptual and somatosensory processes influence the conceptual knowledge (language) of the competent language user. Here, I explore what I name the 'plasticity' of language, to hone in on characteristics of language, which, once language is in place, might lessen the necessity of physical interaction with the environment during knowledge acquisition. Linguistic knowledge is acquired by way of structures that contain representations of previous physical interactions. This could explain how a person's experiences transcend the boundary of the individual and meaningfully translate into linguistic knowledge accessible to others, as seems to be the case in so-called interactional expertise; expertise acquired without physical interaction.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Gnosis Research Centre, University of Aarhus, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2011


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