The Center for Language Science presents

"Using Cross-Linguistic Variation to Inform the Neurobiology of Language"
with Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, Department of Germanic Linguistics, University of Marburg and Matthias Schlesewsky, Department of English and Linguistics, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
12:00-1:30 p.m.
Social and Behavioral Science Gateway, Room 1517

Investigations into the neurobiology of language commonly treat "language" as a single phenomenon (perhaps divided into subdomains such as phonology, semantics and syntax). However, among the cognitive abilities of humans, language is singular in its degree of variability: over 6000 languages are used in the world today and this is likely only a small fraction of the languages that have existed or could potentially exist. Detailed quantitative analyses of this extraordinary variability have led language typologists to the conclusion that the notion of hard-and fast rules for what constitutes a possible human language is not very useful. Rather, variation appears to be quantitative: some patterns occur much more frequently than others across the languages of the world. Since language as a communicative medium is undoubtedly a product of the human brain, we argue that these recurring patterns may, at least in part, be viewed as a product of brain organization and function. As such, they can be used to inform neurobiological models of language. Here, we illustrate this approach on the basis of select phenomena in sentence processing and a new dorsal-ventral streams model of language comprehension (Bornkessel-Schlesewsky & Schlesewsky, in press).        

For further information, please contact Sandy Cushman, or 949-824-3344.


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