Foto del docente

Marianna Marcella Bolognesi

Associate Professor

Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Academic discipline: L-LIN/01 Historical and General Linguistics


Keywords: cognitive linguistics, abstraction, concreteness, semantic categorization, multimodal communication, distributional semantics, figurative language

The cognitive processing and representation of of abstract words

How are the meanings of words denoting abstract (e.g., freedom) and concrete (e.g., table) concepts understood and represented in the mind? What role does language play in determining the content of such representations? And what happens when these words also vary in level of specificity, e.g., freedom of the press vs. freedom, or table vs. object?

Where a concrete concept (banana) can be represented in the mind through the mental image of its referent, or through a set of semantic and perceptual properties related to its referent (color, shape, taste, etc.), an abstract concept (freedom) does not denote a tangible referent that can be experienced through the five senses. What kind of information is therefore encoded in its mental representation? And how does this kind of representation differ from that which we can computationally obtain through the construction of vectors (embeddings)? How, then, are categorization tasks performed by the human mind and the artificial mind?

Metaphor comprehension in native speakers and learners

How are the metaphorical and literal meanings of verbs processed, in conventionalized expressions such as devouring a book (metaphorical) and devouring a pizza (literal)? What is the difference in the way these meanings are processed by native speakers and L2 learners?

In my research I address these questions through psycholinguistic investigations (for example, measuring reaction times in lexical decision tasks, or observing eye movements in reading tasks, through eye-tracking). This research was sponsored in 2017-2019 by a grant funded by the British Research Council (AHRC), for the research program Creative Multilingualism, where I worked at the University of Oxford.

Comparing semiotic systems: words and images

How does the semiotic system of images work, compared with the verbal one? How are metaphors constructed in visual, verbal, and multimodal messages in which images and words are combined (such as in social campaigns, advertising, and satirical cartoons)?

In my research I address these issues through corpus-based analyses and computational modelling of semantic similarities between concepts compared in visual and verbal metaphors. This research was supported, in 2015-2017, by a Marie S. European fellowship. Curie that I won for the CogVim project (which I conceived and implemented), conducted at the Metaphor Lab Amsterdam, where I am currently the coordinator of the research area Metaphor and Multimodality.