JournalLanguage and Communication

Language, mind and brain

The brain and its several areas that process language mature at a different pace: The short part of the so-called fasciculus arcuatus (blue) and the so-called fasciculus fronto-occipitalis inferior (green) are already developed just after birth. The long part of the fasciculus arcuatus (violett) matures until we reach adulthood. Only then this nerve bundle can send information from the Broca area to the Wernicke area so that we can process complex grammatical sentences. © MPI CBS

Language serves as a cornerstone of human cognition. However, our knowledge about its neural basis is still a matter of debate, partly because ‘language’ is often ill-defined. Rather than equating language with ‘speech’ or ‘communication’, we propose that language is best described as a biologically determined computational cognitive mechanism that yields an unbounded array of hierarchically structured expressions. The results of recent brain imaging studies are consistent with this view of language as an autonomous cognitive mechanism, leading to a view of its neural organization, whereby language involves dynamic interactions of syntactic and semantic aspects represented in neural networks that connect the inferior frontal and superior temporal cortices functionally and structurally.

Angela D. Friederici, Noam Chomsky, Robert C. Berwick, Andrea Moro & Johan J. Bolhuis. Language, mind and brain. Nature Human Behaviour (2017) doi:10.1038/s41562-017-0184-4