Skip to content

Brains ♥ Shakespeare


What happens when you mix fMRI with Shakespearean wordplay? How does the brain respond to grammatical twists - called functional shifts or word-class conversions - that give an existing word a new syntactic function (like verbing a noun, or hearting someone)?

David Pescovitz at Boing Boing blogged yesterday about a piece on "The Shakespeared Brain" by Philip Davis in the Literary Review:

Our findings begin to show how Shakespeare created dramatic effects by implicitly taking advantage of the relative independence - at the neural level - of semantics and syntax in sentence comprehension. It is as though he is a pianist using one hand to keep the background melody going, whilst simultaneously the other pushes towards ever more complex variations and syncopations.

In this example from The Winter's Tale an adjective acts like a verb: Heavy thoughts are said to "thick my blood."

Pretty synapsy, eh?

Photo by Plutor

Popular posts