A Biological Engine for Human Language
For more than a decade, Northeastern psychology professor Iris Berent has focused her research on one central question: What makes human language so special? So far, she’s addressed that question by conducting experiments on speakers of languages as diverse as Hebrew and American Sign Language.
Through this research, she’s uncovered some surprising things. For instance, her work has shown that regardless of our mother tongue, we prefer certain linguistic structures to others. Despite significant differences between languages as unrelated as Korean and Spanish, all of them seem to share the same set of unwritten rules that dictate how sounds can be arranged to form words.
Read the full article A Biological Engine for Human Language at NeuroscienceNews.com.
The research is in PLOS ONE (full open access) and PNAS (full access paywall)
Research: “Language Universals Engage Broca’s Area” by Iris Berent, Hong Pan, Xu Zhao, Jane Epstein, Monica L. Bennett, Vibhas Deshpande, Ravi Teja Seethamraju, and Emily Stern in PLOS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0095155 (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0095155)
“Language universals at birth” by David Maximiliano Gómez, Iris Berent, Silvia Benavides-Varela, Ricardo A. H. Bion, Luigi Cattarossi, Marina Nespor, and Jacques Mehler in PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1318261111
Image: The syllable structure manipulation activated primary auditory cortex (A), and this effect was specifically due to the structure of monosyllables (B). Syllable structure also modulated hemodynamic response in motor areas (C), but these effects, significant at the larynx area, resulted in deactivation (D). Responses to monosyllables are plotted in blue; disyllables are indicated in red. Credit Berent et al/PLOS ONE.