You are on page 1of 36

Neurolinguistics and language acquisition

Neurobiological foundations of language

Neurolinguistics Goals:
By the end of this section you should be able to:
identify the main language centers of the brain describe effects of injuries to language centers explain how certain types of specific brain damage provide evidence about how language is processed in the brain

Neurolinguistics: the branch of linguistics concerned with the biological and neural foundations of language. Modularity: brain is structured and subdivided into specific areas that control particular faculties. Aphasia: a specific language disorder following brain lesions caused by stroke, tumor, gunshot wounds, or severe infections. Lesion: A circumscribed pathological alteration of brain tissue. (appears as a scar on the brain)

stroke) patients who have had brain surgery .g.Neurolinguistics Neurolinguists investigate How the brain processes language Where the brain processes language Who neurolinguists study Normal subjects Abnormal subjects patients with brain injury (e.

the cerebrum is made up of two hemispheres.Brain structure The part of the brain with greatest mass is called the cerebrum. the left and right hemispheres which are connected by nerve fibers called the corpus callosum .

Brain hemispheres right hemisphere front of head back of head left hemisphere .

Lateralization Contra-lateral control a given hemisphere controls opposite side of body Left hemisphere controls right side of body Right hemisphere controls left side of body Other hemispheric specializations: .

g.Right hemisphere specialties Holistic. spatial processing pattern-matching (e. recognizing faces) spatial relations emotional reactions music (processing by musically naive individuals) linguistic intonation (but not lexical tone!) .

analytical thinking. literate. monolingual subjects . righthanded. male. relations. intellectual reasoning language.Left hemisphere specialties Sequential processing rhythm temporal. speech sounds especially so for adult. music (processed by musically sophisticated individuals). mathematics.

Language:left hemisphere Evidence: dichotic listening experiments Thai tonal contrasts [na@˘] „aunt‟ (high) [na^˘] „face‟ (falling) [na#˘] „field‟ (mid) [na&˘] „thick‟ (rising) [na$˘] (nickname) (low) Thai speakers process tone with left hemisphere English speakers presented with tonal contrasts process tone with right hemisphere .

Language:left hemisphere Evidence from aphasia Brain injury locations resulting in speech deficits are almost always in left hemisphere .

Language:left hemisphere Evidence from split-brain patients Severe cases of epilepsy treated by severing corpus callosum Task of naming object held in left hand (right brain) left eye open (right brain). right eye covered much harder than right eye open (left brain). left eye covered .

corpus callosum (connects hemispheres) .

Lateralization: Caveats Lesser left hemisphere specialization for language if: left-handed female illiterate multilingual .

Modality and lateralization No effect of language modality on lateralization for language Left hemisphere specialization for language even for signed languages .

Localization for language Hypothesis: specific parts of brain control specific parts of body or bodily functions. including language .

.language centers (left hemisphere) Broca’s Wernicke’s Arcuate fasciculus QuickTime™ an d a Cinepak decompressor are need ed to see this p icture .

language centers (left hemisphere) .

.. prince um.ball... um...poor... as told by a Broca‟s aphasic Cinderella.‟dopted. motor aphasia) Characteristics of Broca‟s aphasia basic message of meaning clear but speech is not fluent phrases are telegraphic (absence of function words) incorrect production of sounds Cinderella.scrubbed and „dopted her.. .. Ball.shoe...poor.a... expressive aphasia.k. um.Evidence for localization: aphasia Broca's area lesions result in Broca's aphasia (a. tidy.

Say how Wishi idaw. uh windy. look how windy. Sometimes I get one around here that I can cut a couple regs. It‟s really window isn‟t it?‟ . I wish I had one now. There‟s no rugs around here and nothing cut right.Evidence for localization: aphasia Wernicke‟s area lesions Characteristics of Wernicke‟s aphasia speech is fluent. But that‟s a rug and I had some nice rekebz. but often nonsensical or circuitous Description of a knife by a Wernicke‟s aphasic „That‟s a resh.

Wernicke‟s areas) Conductive/conduction aphasia Characteristics usually good comprehension.Evidence for localization: aphasia Lesions at arcuate fasciculus (subcortex nerve fibers connecting Broca‟s. fluent speech but difficulty repeating difficulty reading out loud difficulty writing .

DISORDERS OF SPEECH: APHASIAS Approximate left hemisphere area where acute lesions almost always produce language disorders .

. or an infection. a disease such as Alzheimer's. which may occur during a traumatic accident or when the brain is deprived of oxygen during a stroke. Aphasia may be temporary or permanent. like encephalitis. It may also be caused by a brain tumor.Aphasia is caused by a brain injury.

Problems in production: articulation.Study of brain damaged patients Paul Broca 1824 – 1880 Damage in Broca’s area . poor use of grammatical features .Understanding of speech fairly normal .

Severe comprehension deficits . but a lot of different word distortions and difficulties finding the right word .Prosody and pronunciation intact.Carl Wernicke 1848 – 1904 Damage in Wernicke’s area . speech is fluent but “empty”.

auditory comprehension relatively good. for production and comprehension respectively: Broca’s and Wernicke’s area.The classical view of language in the brain . is essential for normal language function.The arcuate fasciculus: a bundle of nerve fibers connecting Wernicke’s area to Broca’s. . Damage to it causes conduction aphasia: speech “fluent”. . but repetition of heard words is impaired.Two language centres.

...... Wednesday. girl. nine o'clock and . ten o'clock .. hospital.. Dad. then. and Paul .... Wednesday.. and . articulation difficulties . And a doctor . Monday .Often agrammatism: 1) sentence construction deficit.Little intonation present (dysprosody) .Comprehension relatively good ”Non-fluent aphasia” ..... and gums. or 3) difficulty in understanding syntactically complex sentences.. Thursday. two.. teeth." Performance profile ... two . and I... 2) possibly selective impairment of grammatical elements.." "Me .Production difficulty: slow speech.Broca’s aphasia Samples of spontaneous speech: "Yes .. cutting wood . saw . . One. no cab-in-ets.. chairs. build-ing . doctors and .. yah. no.. working . doctors..

The brain of a patient who suffered from Wernicke’s aphasia due to a stroke in the left middle cerebral artery .

word-finding difficulties. Examiner: Excuse me. and I. porpunate.auditory comprehension deficit . I mean place rear to the spedawn .. near the fortunate. word substitutions and made-up words . Patient: If you had said that. you know . we were working for a long time in the .. but I wanted to know what work you have been doing... Oh.fluent but meaningless speech . I get all confused. syntactic processing relatively normal .Wernicke’s aphasia A sample of conversational speech Examiner: What kind of work have you done? Patient: We... the kids. we had said that. Performance profile . all around the fourth of martz. tamppoo. it's the kind of space. all of us.normal prosody. poomer.

Repetition disproportionately severely impaired.Conduction aphasia • Example of conduction aphasic’s repetition performance: BED  ”bed” PRESIDENT  ”peh-tn” HIPPOPOTAMUS  ”?” • Performance profile . sometimes semantic difficulties .Word-finding difficulties. speech fluent and auditory comprehension relatively good . leading to numerous phonological errors .Outstanding difficulty is in the proper choice and sequencing of phonemes in speech output.

an object may be described rather than named. all basic language functions are affected. Some less common types of aphasias: .Subcortical aphasia . .Other types of aphasias . Often results from damage in inferior temporal areas. As a result.Transcortical sensory aphasia .Transcortical motor aphasia .Crossed aphasia .Global aphasia: wide-spread left-hemisphere damage.Anomic aphasia: primarily influences an individual's ability to find the right name for a person or object. some more than others.

SENSORY GLOBAL Bad Bad Bad -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- .MOTOR TRANSCORT.Clinical characterizations of aphasic syndromes Fluency of Output Language Comprehension Repetition Name of Aphasic Syndrome ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Bad Good Good Bad Good Good Bad Good Good Bad Moderate Bad Bad Good Good BROCA WERNICKE CONDUCTION TRANSCORT.

Neurolinguistics summary Hemispheres of brain have different specialties. Wernicke's areas especially important Neurolinguistics provides evidence for human specialization for language .) individuals) Lateralization is not affected by language modality Language centers within the brain: Broca's. including language (most clearly for right-handed (etc.

Acquisition Goals: By the end of this section you should be able to: explain what is meant by “innateness of language” identify the major milestones of 1st language acquisition describe major similarities and differences between 1st and 2nd language acquisition .

Innateness hypothesis Innateness (Lennenberg) humans are genetically predisposed to aquire linguistic competence (though not in any specific language) humans are born with the “knowledge” that language has systematic and unique patterns humans are born with the critical abilities that enable them to learn linguistic patterns patterns that are common to language in general are considered parts of “universal grammar” .

Innateness hypothesis charactistics of innate behavior innately determined behavior is common. especially in species specific communication emerges before it‟s necessary emergence not triggered by specific event little effect of direct teaching and overt practice regular sequence of “milestones” correlated with maturation “critical period” after which behavior cannot be adequately acquired (note difference between babies and adults learning a language) .