The brain basis of speech sounds and spoken word forms is modeled and investigated in neurophysiological and patient studies. Network models predict that linguistic neuronal assemblies are distributed over frontal and temporal areas. A current key question is whether the inferior-frontal cortex (Broca’s area) and adjacent premotor cortex play a crucial role in speech perception and language comprehension. Old neurological models (Lichtheim, Wernicke) say “no”, but our data provide evidence for a clear “yes”. The debate is still ongoing.
A fundamental distinction in linguistic theory is made between stored lexical entries and rules or schemes that flexibly combine these elements. The range of lexical entries was through current research extended to the level above the word, also allowing constructions of several words to become unitary constructions (UCs) in the lexicon. Correspondingly, flexible combinatorial schemes (CSs) also operate at the level below the word; morphological rules similar to the rules of syntax govern the composition of morphemes into complex words.
Whether a given complex linguistic form is seen as a stored element or as a composed, assembled one is typically decided on the basis of semantic and combinatorial criteria. Recent research indicates that biolinguistic criteria can speak to this issue, possibly leading to a clarification of the lexical / combinatorial status of an expression based on neurophysiological data recorded directly from the human brain. In this project we used neurophysiology track the brain basis of lexical storage vs. flexible combination. Building upon pre-existing evidence demonstrating distinct brain signatures of UC and CS processing, we further investigated complex forms, whose status as either stored or combinatorially-assembled is still under debate.
This project was founded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).
Hanna, J., & Pulvermüller, F. (2018). Congruency of separable affix verb combinations is linearly indexed by the N400. Frontiers in Human Neurosciences.
Lucchese, G., Hanna, J., Autenrieb, A., Miller, T. M., & Pulvermüller, F. (2017). Electrophysiological evidence for early and interactive symbol access and rule processing in retrieving and combining language constructions. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29(2), 254-266. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01038
Hanna, J., Cappelle, B., & Pulvermüller, F. (2017). Spread the word: MMN brain response reveals whole-form access of discontinuous particle verbs. Brain and Language, 175, 86-98. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2017.10.002