Laboratorio di Linguistica
'Giovanni Nencioni'

















Pragmatica teorica e sperimentale



Coordinator: Valentina Bambini (IUSS, Pavia)

Staff involved: Pier Marco Bertinetto, Chiara Bertini, Simona Di Paola, Marta Ghio, Donatella Resta


Lewis Bott (Cardiff University)
Mirko Grimaldi (Università del Salento)
Petra B. Schumacher (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)
Marco Tettamanti (Istituto San Raffaele, Milano)


We investigate the cognitive mechanisms and the neural architecture underlying language-context integration across different experimental techniques, by focusing on the fine-tuning of lexical elements across different contexts of use. Special attention is devoted to non-literal uses of language, such as metaphor and metonymy.

Ongoing projects

The neural basis of metaphor

In collaboration with the team directed by P. Pietrini (Pisa), we ran a functional neuroimaging study to identify the neural correlates of metaphor processing. The investigation is currently expanding to include new variables and to explore cross-subject variability in brain processes.

The time course of metaphor comprehension

Event-related brain potentials (ERP) are being employed to investigate the time-course of metaphor comprehension, with special reference to two largely unexplored issues: a) the role of context (in collaboration with F. Di Russo, Roma); b) the specificity of literary metaphor (in collaboration with M. Grimaldi, Lecce).

Metaphorical readings

Despite the existence of long-standing psycholinguistic research on metaphor and reading times, we still ignore eye movement facts. This project concerns eye movement recording studies addressing participants who read metaphorical expressions with different contextual support.

“Steps of the mind over figurative meaning I and II”

This project, run in collaboration with P. B. Schumacher (Mainz) and L. Bott (Cardiff) and supported by a travel grant awarded by the EURO-XPRAG Research Network, focuses on the temporal dynamics and the cognitive efforts of figurative language processing. The aim is twofold. On the one hand, we want to assess the role of literal meaning in figurative interpretation, by employing methodologies able to tap onto the early processing phases. On the other hand, we are trying to assess whether and how pragmatic processing varies across types of figurative meaning, by comparing metaphor and metonymy.

The representation of conceptual categories

This project, run in collaboration with M. Tettamanti (Milano), addresses the representation and processing of semantic-conceptual categories, by combining behavioral and functional magnetic resonance investigation. We go beyond the abstract/concrete dichotomy, by considering the role of the sensory-motor system and of the system for internal states representation.



PhD dissertations

In progress

Simona Di Paola [topic under definition]


Valentina Bambini (2007): A Metaphorical Window into the Language-Brain-Context Relations. FMRI and ERP Approaches to Pragmatics and Metaphor. External supervisors: B. G. Bara - A. Caramazza - F. Di Russo - P. Pietrini.

Marta Ghio: from concepts to ad hoc concepts: pragmatic processing of literal and figurative meanings. This research thesis investigates the construction of communicative meanings both in literal and figurative sentential contexts, by combining psycholinguistic and neuroimaging techniques.



II EURO-XPRAG Workshop 2011


Recent publications

BAMBINI Valentina 2012. Neurolinguistics. In J.-O. ÖSTMAN & J. VERSCHUEREN (eds.), Handbook of Pragmatics. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

BAMBINI Valentina & Bruno G. BARA 2012. Neuropragmatics. In J. VERSCHUEREN et al. (eds.), Handbook of Pragmatics. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

BAMBINI Valentina & Donatella RESTA 2012. Metaphor and experimental pragmatics: When theory meets empirical investigation. Humana.Mente. Journal of Philosophical Studies 23.

SCHUMACHER Petra B., Valentina BAMBINI & H. WEILAND 2012. Event-related brain potentials of masked repetition and semantic priming while listening to sentences. Neuroscience Letters,

BAMBINI V., C. GENTILI, E. RICCIARDI, P.M. BERTINETTO & P. PIETRINI 2011. Decomposing metaphor processing at the cognitive and neural level through functional magnetic resonance imaging. Brain Research Bulletin, 86(3-4): 203-16.

BAMBINI Valentina (ed.) 2010. Neuropragmatics. Special Issue of Italian Journal of Linguistics 22(1).

GHIO Marta & Marco TETTAMANTI2010. Semantic domain-specific functional integration for action-related concepts vs. abstract concepts. Brain & Language 112: 223-232.

last up-dating: January 2015




Speech production and perception

Prosody and Phonotactics

Verb Features

Experimental Pragmatics and Neuropragmatics

Morphosyntactic Investigations

Endangered languages

Corpora building and maintenance