Template construction grammar: from visual scene description to language comprehension and agrammatism

Neuroinformatics. 2014 Jan;12(1):181-208. doi: 10.1007/s12021-013-9197-y.


How does the language system coordinate with our visual system to yield flexible integration of linguistic, perceptual, and world-knowledge information when we communicate about the world we perceive? Schema theory is a computational framework that allows the simulation of perceptuo-motor coordination programs on the basis of known brain operating principles such as cooperative computation and distributed processing. We present first its application to a model of language production, SemRep/TCG, which combines a semantic representation of visual scenes (SemRep) with Template Construction Grammar (TCG) as a means to generate verbal descriptions of a scene from its associated SemRep graph. SemRep/TCG combines the neurocomputational framework of schema theory with the representational format of construction grammar in a model linking eye-tracking data to visual scene descriptions. We then offer a conceptual extension of TCG to include language comprehension and address data on the role of both world knowledge and grammatical semantics in the comprehension performances of agrammatic aphasic patients. This extension introduces a distinction between heavy and light semantics. The TCG model of language comprehension offers a computational framework to quantitatively analyze the distributed dynamics of language processes, focusing on the interactions between grammatical, world knowledge, and visual information. In particular, it reveals interesting implications for the understanding of the various patterns of comprehension performances of agrammatic aphasics measured using sentence-picture matching tasks. This new step in the life cycle of the model serves as a basis for exploring the specific challenges that neurolinguistic computational modeling poses to the neuroinformatics community.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Comprehension / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Mirror Neurons / physiology
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Primates