The role of affordances in visually situated language comprehension
Affordances are potentiations for bodily action that are routinely evaluated in the course of perception. For example, the physical features of bricks, lamps, and pillows provide salient cues about the actions a perceiver could likely perform with those objects. In visually situated contexts, affordances can provide a potentially useful source of information for aspects of language comprehension. This chapter begins by reviewing various perspectives on affordances as well as issues regarding their computation. Of particular relevance is how the information provided by affordances differs from linguistically- or conceptually-encoded links between objects and actions, such as selectional restrictions or semantic associations. The chapter then describes various ways in which affordances influence visually situated language comprehension, using examples from different levels of linguistic processing. The remainder of the chapter considers whether language comprehension reflects the influence of “genuine” affordances or instead a system in which information about the idiosyncratic features of perceptible objects is combined with (and often controlled by) linguistic and cognitive constraints.