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Journal Article

What neural oscillations can and cannot do for syntactic structure building


Tavano,  Alessandro       
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Kazanina, N., & Tavano, A. (2023). What neural oscillations can and cannot do for syntactic structure building. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 24, 113-128. doi:10.1038/s41583-022-00659-5.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000C-6CFC-0
Understanding what someone says requires relating words in a sentence to one another as instructed by the grammatical rules of a language. In recent years, the neurophysiological basis for this process has become a prominent topic of discussion in cognitive neuroscience. Current proposals about the neural mechanisms of syntactic structure building converge on a key role for neural oscillations in this process, but they differ in terms of the exact function that is assigned to them. In this Perspective, we discuss two proposed functions for neural oscillations — chunking and multiscale information integration — and evaluate their merits and limitations taking into account a fundamentally hierarchical nature of syntactic representations in natural languages. We highlight insights that provide a tangible starting point for a neurocognitive model of syntactic structure building.