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Journal Article

Phonotactics and syntax: Investigating functional specialisation during structured sequence processing


Udden,  Julia
Neurobiology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, External Organizations;
Stockholm University ;

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Seyfried, F., & Udden, J. (2023). Phonotactics and syntax: Investigating functional specialisation during structured sequence processing. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 38(3), 346-358. doi:10.1080/23273798.2022.2116462.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000B-319B-F
Frontal lobe organisation displays a functional gradient, with overarching processing goals located in parts anterior to more subordinate goals, processed more posteriorly. Functional specialisation for syntax and phonology within language relevant areas has been supported by meta-analyses and reviews, but never directly tested experimentally. We tested for organised functional specialisation by manipulating syntactic case and phonotactics, creating violations at the end of otherwise matched and predictable sentences. Both violations led to increased activation in expected language regions. We observe the clearest signs of a functional gradient for language processing in the medial frontal cortex, where syntactic violations activated a more anterior portion compared to the phonotactic violations. A large overlap of syntactic and phonotactic processing in the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) supports the view that general structured sequence processes are located in this area. These findings are relevant for understanding how sentence processing is implemented in hierarchically organised processing steps in the frontal lobe.