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Journal Article

Language and cognition: Kurt Goldstein‘s Theory of Semantics


Noppeney,  U
Research Group Cognitive Neuroimaging, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Noppeney, U. (2000). Language and cognition: Kurt Goldstein‘s Theory of Semantics. Brain and Cognition, 44(3), 367-386. doi:10.1006/brcg.1999.1199.

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Kurt Goldstein is regarded as one of the major proponents of the holistic movement at the beginning of the 20th century. He rejected the strong localization hypothesis in the field of aphasiology and attempted to link language disturbances to an underlying general intellectual impairment. Goldstein‘s criticism was based on his subtle symptomatology, his organismic biology, and his philosophical reflections. In his concept of abstract attitude Goldstein searched for a general psychological function that might explain a variety of aphasic symptoms. Abstract attitude bridges the gap between cognitive and linguistic structures. According to Goldstein, it is the basis for words to have a meaning, to be employed in a categorical sense. Since amnesic aphasics are confined to a concrete attitude, their words have lost their representational function. Although Goldstein‘s concept of abstract attitude is no longer used in scientific discourse, it is analyzed for its heuristic value. It led Goldstein to questions about the relation between cognition and language and to fragments of a semantic theory.