In network models, the learning of static combinations of the same linguistic units (syllables, morphemes) leads to the formation of distributed neuronal assemblies (DNAs) for these elements of a “lexicon”. In contrast, the learning of flexible combinations between words from specific lexical-semantic categories sets up indirect links by way of circuits we call combinatorial neuronal assemblies (CNAs), which may realize aspects of a “grammar”. DNAs and CNAs motivate the proposal of distinct neurobiological mechanisms for combining meaningful elements into strings, one for whole form storage of static complex-lexical elements and fixed constructions, with distinct brain signatures. Consistent with this model, we found different neurophysiological signatures for violations of static-lexical and flexible-grammatical predictions, These signatures may be useful for addressing questions in linguistics and brain science.
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