Processes and verbs of doing, in the brain: Theoretical implications for Systemic Functional Linguistics

Adolfo M. García, Agustín Ibáñez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) has long been characterized by its openness towards contributions from other fields. However, it has remained virtually uninformed by neuroscience. Such a disconnection has become all the more unfortunate since SFL ventured into the cognitive domain (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999). Opening a new avenue of disciplinary interaction for SFL, this paper reviews experimental studies on the neurocognitive basis of processes and verbs of doing, highlighting their manifold implications for the theory. Available data corroborates the SFL assumptions that these processes and verbs are (i) conceptually different from participants and nouns, (ii) functionally distinguishable from other process and verb types, and (iii) non-arbitrarily related to each other. Moreover, the evidence shows that (at least some of) the conceptual distinctions within semantics are naturally grounded in more basic (motor and perceptual) neurocognitive distinctions. This, we propose, calls for an elaboration of the stratified SFL model via the inclusion of a sensorimotor stratum. More generally, the article seeks to foster an empirically sound and theoretically relevant dialogue between SFL and promising approaches within cognitive neuroscience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-335
Number of pages31
JournalFunctions of Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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