The ability to process center‐embedded structures has been claimed to represent a core function of the language faculty. Recently, several studies have investigated the learning of center‐embedded dependencies in artificial grammar settings. Yet some of the results seem to question the learnability of these structures in artificial grammar tasks. Here, we tested under which exposure conditions learning of center‐embedded structures in an artificial grammar is possible. We used naturally spoken syllable sequences and varied the presence of prosodic cues. The results (...) suggest that mere distributional information does not suffice for successful learning. Prosodic cues marking the boundaries of the major relevant units, however, can lead to learning success. Thus, our data are consistent with the hypothesis that center‐embedded syntactic structures can be learned in artificial grammar tasks if language‐like acoustic cues are provided. (shrink)
Both autonomy and local specificity are compatible with observed interconnectivity at the cell level when considering two different levels: cell assemblies and brain systems. Early syntactic structuring processes in particular are likely to representan autonomous module in the language/brain system.
The signal functions of infant crying cannot be understood properly without due attention to their ontogenetic development. Based on our own research on the development of infant cries, we argue that the controversies in cry literature will not be solved by static models, but that progress will made only when considering ontogenetic changes in interpreting cry data.
The notion that the working-memory system is not to be located in the prefrontal cortex, but rather constituted by the interplay between temporal and frontal areas, is of some attraction. However, at least for the domain of sentence comprehension, this perspective is promoted on the basis of sparse data. For this domain, the authors not only missed out on the chance to systematically integrate event-related brain potential (ERP) and neuroimaging data when interpreting their own findings on semantic aspects of working (...) memory, but also neglected syntactic aspects of working memory and computation altogether. (shrink)
Both linguistic and empirical evidence fail to support Grodzinsky's account of Broca's aphasics' comprehension problems. We address concerns regarding Grodzinsky's referring to the internal subject hypothesis, the importance of case information in thematic role assignment, the processing of passives, and the adequacy of Grodzinsky's linear strategy.
Humans are equipped with the remarkable ability to comprehend an infinite number of utterances. Relations between grammatical categories restrict the way words combine into phrases and sentences. How the brain recognizes different word combinations remains largely unknown, although this is a necessary condition for combinatorial unboundedness in language. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and multivariate pattern analysis to explore whether distinct neural populations of a known language network hub—Broca’s area—are specialized for recognizing distinct simple word combinations. The phrases (...) consisted of a noun (flag) occurring either with a content word, an adjective (green flag), or with a function word, a determiner (that flag). The key result is that the distribution of neural populations classifying word combination in Broca’s area seems sensitive to neuroanatomical subdivisions within this area, irrespective of task. The information patterns for adjective + noun were localized in its anterior part (BA45) whereas those for determiner + noun were localized in its posterior part (BA44). Our findings provide preliminary answers to the fundamental question of how lexical and grammatical category information interact during simple word combination, with the observation that Broca’s area is sensitive to the recognition of categorical relationships during combinatory processing, based on different demands placed on syntactic and semantic information. This supports the hypothesis that the combinatorial power of language consists of some neural computation capturing phrasal differences when processing linguistic input. (shrink)
Infants show impressive speech decoding abilities and detect acoustic regularities that highlight the syntactic relations of a language, often coded via non-adjacent dependencies. It has been claimed that infants learn NADs implicitly and associatively through passive listening and that there is a shift from effortless associative learning to a more controlled learning of NADs after the age of 2 years, potentially driven by the maturation of the prefrontal cortex. To investigate if older children are able to learn NADs, Lammertink et (...) al. recently developed a word-monitoring serial reaction time task and could show that 6–11-year-old children learned the NADs, as their reaction times increased then they were presented with violated NADs. In the current study we adapted their experimental paradigm and tested NAD learning in a younger group of 52 children between the age of 4–8 years in a remote, web-based, game-like setting. Children were exposed to Italian phrases containing NADs and had to monitor the occurrence of a target syllable, which was the second element of the NAD. After exposure, children did a “Stem Completion” task in which they were presented with the first element of the NAD and had to choose the second element of the NAD to complete the stimuli. Our findings show that, despite large variability in the data, children aged 4–8 years are sensitive to NADs; they show the expected differences in r RTs in the SRT task and could transfer the NAD-rule in the Stem Completion task. We discuss these results with respect to the development of NAD dependency learning in childhood and the practical impact and limitations of collecting these data in a web-based setting. (shrink)
We criticize the lack of neuroanatomical precision in the Grodzinsky target article. We propose a more precise neuroanatomical characterization of syntactic processing and suggest that syntactic procedures are supported by the left frontal operculum in addition to the anterior part of the superior temporal gyrus, which appears to be associated with syntactic knowledge representation.