Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 16
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Kolodny, Oren and Edelman, Shimon 2015. The problem of multimodal concurrent serial order in behavior. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Vol. 56, p. 252.

    Luuk, Erkki 2015. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences.

    Kemmerer, David 2014. Word classes in the brain: Implications of linguistic typology for cognitive neuroscience. Cortex, Vol. 58, p. 27.

    Pulvermüller, Friedemann 2014. The syntax of action. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 18, Issue. 5, p. 219.

    Seyfarth, Robert M and Cheney, Dorothy L 2014. The evolution of language from social cognition. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, Vol. 28, p. 5.

    Baggio, Giosuè van Lambalgen, Michiel and Hagoort, Peter 2012. Philosophy of Linguistics.

    Hurford, James R. 2012. Philosophy of Linguistics.

    Schoenemann, P. Thomas 2012. Evolution of the Primate Brain.

    Goldstein, Michael H. Waterfall, Heidi R. Lotem, Arnon Halpern, Joseph Y. Schwade, Jennifer A. Onnis, Luca and Edelman, Shimon 2010. General cognitive principles for learning structure in time and space. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 14, Issue. 6, p. 249.

    Luuk, Erkki 2010. Nouns, verbs and flexibles: implications for typologies of word classes. Language Sciences, Vol. 32, Issue. 3, p. 349.

    Luuk, Erkki 2009. The noun/verb and predicate/argument structures. Lingua, Vol. 119, Issue. 11, p. 1707.

    Schoenemann, P. Thomas 2009. Evolution of Brain and Language. Language Learning, Vol. 59, p. 162.

    Bickerton, Derek 2007. Language evolution: A brief guide for linguists. Lingua, Vol. 117, Issue. 3, p. 510.

    Hurford, James R. 2007. The origin of noun phrases: Reference, truth and communication. Lingua, Vol. 117, Issue. 3, p. 527.

    Thelen, Esther and Smith, Linda B. 2007. Handbook of Child Psychology.

    Hurford, J.R. 2006. Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics.


The neural basis of predicate-argument structure

  • James R. Hurford (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 June 2003

Neural correlates exist for a basic component of logical formulae, PREDICATE(x). Vision and audition research in primates and humans shows two independent neural pathways; one locates objects in body-centered space, the other attributes properties, such as colour, to objects. In vision these are the dorsal and ventral pathways. In audition, similarly separable “where” and “what” pathways exist. PREDICATE(x) is a schematic representation of the brain's integration of the two processes of delivery by the senses of the location of an arbitrary referent object, mapped in parietal cortex, and analysis of the properties of the referent by perceptual subsystems.

The brain computes actions using a few “deictic” variables pointing to objects. Parallels exist between such nonlinguistic variables and linguistic deictic devices. Indexicality and reference have linguistic and nonlinguistic (e.g., visual) versions, sharing the concept of attention. The individual variables of logical formulae are interpreted as corresponding to these mental variables. In computing action, the deictic variables are linked with “semantic” information about the objects, corresponding to logical predicates.

Mental scene descriptions are necessary for practical tasks of primates, and preexist language phylogenetically. The type of scene descriptions used by nonhuman primates would be reused for more complex cognitive, ultimately linguistic, purposes. The provision by the brain's sensory/perceptual systems of about four variables for temporary assignment to objects, and the separate processes of perceptual categorization of the objects so identified, constitute a pre-adaptive platform on which an early system for the linguistic description of scenes developed.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *