The meaning of words and constructions is reflected by topographically specific brain activity, but even the same linguistic form appearing in contexts where it carries different communicative function can elicit different brain activity patterns. Brain activations can be mapped for different speech acts and we explore theory-guided explanations for such neuropragmatic relationships.
Substantial neuroscience research has addressed the question how the meaning of words and sen-tences is manifest in brain activity. However, as linguistic structures can be tools for different pur-poses, it is crucial to understand the mechanisms underlying the different communicative functions a word or sentence can have in different communicative contexts. Linguistic pragmatic theories charac-terise these functions as speech acts, and the communicative contexts defining them, in terms of se-quential structure of actions, related commitments, and knowledge shared by communication part-ners (common ground). We here use linguistic-pragmatic brain theory to model speech-act related cognitive and linguistic processes and their underlying neuronal mechanisms and experimentally test crucial predictions of the resultant models. Specific experiments will investigate the cognitive and brain correlates of understanding and production of speech acts performed with the same utterances in different contexts. EEG, MEG, fMRI, and cognitive-behavioural testing will be used to find neurocog-nitive correlates of speech acts, and additional work with special populations (aphasics, autists) is planned. A focus will be on communicative acts from the linguistic-pragmatic category of ‘directives’, which will be contrasted with ‘assertives’ and ‘expressives’. The project’s main aims are to map spe-cific speech act types and their crucial linguistic-pragmatic components on brain activation patterns in both space and time and to use these results to inform linguistic-pragmatic theory.