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Distinguishing syntactic operations in the brain: Dependency and phrase-structure parsing

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Lopopolo,  Alessandro
Center for Language Studies , External Organizations;
International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Petersson,  Karl Magnus
Neurobiology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Willems,  Roel M.
Center for Language Studies , External Organizations;
Neurobiology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, External Organizations;

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Citation

Lopopolo, A., Van de Bosch, A., Petersson, K. M., & Willems, R. M. (2020). Distinguishing syntactic operations in the brain: Dependency and phrase-structure parsing. Neurobiology of Language. Advance online publication. doi:10.1162/nol_a_00029.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-A22A-3
Abstract
Finding the structure of a sentence — the way its words hold together to convey meaning — is a fundamental step in language comprehension. Several brain regions, including the left inferior frontal gyrus, the left posterior superior temporal gyrus, and the left anterior temporal pole, are supposed to support this operation. The exact role of these areas is nonetheless still debated. In this paper we investigate the hypothesis that different brain regions could be sensitive to different kinds of syntactic computations. We compare the fit of phrase-structure and dependency structure descriptors to activity in brain areas using fMRI. Our results show a division between areas with regard to the type of structure computed, with the left ATP and left IFG favouring dependency structures and left pSTG favouring phrase structures.