Reps and representations: a warm-up to a grammar of lifting

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In this paper, I outline a grammar of lifting (i.e., resistance training) and compare it to that of language. I approach lifting as a system of generating complex meaning–form correspondences from regularized elements and describe the levels of mental representations and relationships between them that are involved in full command of this system. To be able to do so, I adopt a goal-based conception of meaning, which allows us to talk about mappings from complex goals to complex surface outputs in systems of intentional action, signaling and non-signaling, interactive and non-interactive, in a unified way, and show how it applies in lifting. I then proceed to argue that the grammar of lifting is architecturally very similar to that of language. First, I show that both involve stable (idiomatized/lexicalized) pairings of regularized forms with regularized meanings. Second, I argue that in both lifting and language, meaning–form mapping is mediated by syntax, which, crucially, operates on non-linearized hierarchical structures of abstract objects that include both content morphemes and functional morphemes. I conclude, following and expanding on some insights from prior literature and offering further evidence for them, that neither of these architectural phenomena (idiomatized meaning–form pairings and abstract syntax) is specific to language, with both of them likely emerging in skilled action that does not necessarily involve social interaction, due to considerations of repeatability and reusability of elements in new contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-904
Number of pages34
JournalLinguistics and Philosophy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


Many thanks to Kathryn Davidson, Naomi Francis, Patrick Grosz, Pritty Patel-Grosz, as well as three anonymous reviewers and the handling editor Gabriel Greenberg for discussion and feedback. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 891493. This paper is part of the Special Issue “Super Linguistics”, edited by Pritty Patel-Grosz, Emar Maier, and Philippe Schlenker.

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme
H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions891493


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