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Hum Brain Mapp. 2005 Jun;25(2):266-86.

Processing lexical semantic and syntactic information in first and second language: fMRI evidence from German and Russian.

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Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany.


We introduce two experiments that explored syntactic and semantic processing of spoken sentences by native and non-native speakers. In the first experiment, the neural substrates corresponding to detection of syntactic and semantic violations were determined in native speakers of two typologically different languages using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The results show that the underlying neural response of participants to stimuli across different native languages is quite similar. In the second experiment, we investigated how non-native speakers of a language process the same stimuli presented in the first experiment. First, the results show a more similar pattern of increased activation between native and non-native speakers in response to semantic violations than to syntactic violations. Second, the non-native speakers were observed to employ specific portions of the frontotemporal language network differently from those employed by native speakers. These regions included the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), superior temporal gyrus (STG), and subcortical structures of the basal ganglia.

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