The meaning making mechanism(s) behind the eyes and between the ears

Hagoort, P. (2019). The meaning making mechanism(s) behind the eyes and between the ears. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 375: 20190301. doi:10.1098/rstb.2019.0301.
In this contribution, the following four questions are discussed: (i) where is meaning?; (ii) what is meaning?; (iii) what is the meaning of mechanism?; (iv) what are the mechanisms of meaning? I will argue that meanings are in the head. Meanings have multiple facets, but minimally one needs to make a distinction between single word meanings (lexical meaning) and the meanings of multi-word utterances. The latter ones cannot be retrieved from memory, but need to be constructed on the fly. A mechanistic account of the meaning-making mind requires an analysis at both a functional and a neural level, the reason being that these levels are causally interdependent. I will show that an analysis exclusively focusing on patterns of brain activation lacks explanatory power. Finally, I shall present an initial sketch of how the dynamic interaction between temporo-parietal areas and inferior frontal cortex might instantiate the interpretation of linguistic utterances in the context of a multimodal setting and ongoing discourse information.
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