Address: Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin
Before starting the current project at the University of Oslo and the Brain Language Laboratory at Freie Universität Berlin, Marit Lobben was a scholar of the Afro-asiatic language Hausa. She has worked within major linguistic theories such as Cognitive Grammar, grammaticalization theory and the prototype theory of linguistic categorization, and wrote her PhD dissertation on the polysemous syntactic relationship of causative and benefactive constructions from a cross-linguistic typological perspective, graduating in 2010 at the University of Oslo. Lobben also studied Hausa at the School of Oriental and African Language (SOAS), London, and was a visiting scholar at Indiana University, USA, with a leading Hausaist, Dr Paul Newman, where she also passed an exam in advanced Hausa. She carried out three psycholinguistic fieldworks in West Africa, where she for her Master degree she tested children and adults on mental storage and memorization techniques of the complex noun plural system in Hausa, and for her PhD the performed syntactic, phonological and semantic tests in a dialect survey across Niger/Nigeria and the Hausa diaspora in the Ivory Coast. She is currently employed on her own postdoctoral project at the University of Oslo, where she also started the first master course in Norway on neurolinguistics on the Cognitive Neuroscience program in the Psychology Department. Marit Lobben is also affiliated at the Endestad Brain Imaging Group, http://www.sv.uio.no/psi/english/research/groups/ebig/index.html and the Center for Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN), both at the University of Oslo.
- Psycholinguistics/ neurolinguistics
- The role of general cognition in the mental representation of language
- The neurological bases for concept formation processes
- Abstract concepts in embodied cognition
- Neuroimaging methods and experimental designs for language
- Language typology and universals
- Syntactic polysemy
- African languages (Bantu, Hausa)
The current project “The embodied cognitive bases for classifier systems”investigates the brain bases for abstract grammatical concepts that depend on various modalities of acquisition. The primary objective is to find out whether universally recurring semantic categories as they are expressed in nominal classifier systems are instances of embodied conceptual knowledge. Such categories typically describe the noun's essence (an ANIMAL dog), its physical properties (a LONG pencil, a FLEXIBLE rope), or its function (a VEHICLE boat). "Embodied" is used in the sense that concepts are stored in modal brain areas corresponding to the senses that were active in the process of learning, whether through vision, touch, taste, physical interaction or emotion, or a combination of these. To this end, speakers of three classifier languages (Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese) are subjected to neuroimaging (fMRI), TMS, eye tracking and reaction time experiments. The project addresses three aspects central to linguistics as well as neuropsychology: 1) the divide of living vs. non-living things (e.g. what is the contribution of shape, motion and emotion in knowing about living vs. non-living things?), 2) how modal knowledge is merged in the brain to form unitary concepts, and 3) whether modal brain activations are necessary to process abstract linguistic concepts. Is there a central abstraction area in the brain that after learning stores concepts irrespective of the manner in which they were learnt? If so, what function does reactivation of neurons in modal areas have for processing concepts – is it redundant or crucial for understanding? It is hoped that these investigations will contribute to proving or disproving embodied cognition as a general theory for language.