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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Language and brain

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Abstract The human faculty of language has been the focus of researchers from different disciplines such as linguistics, psychology, neurology, biology, anthropology, and more recently genetics. However, the mystery of how the human brain acquires and represents language to ensure its fast and effortless use has still not been entirely solved, although our knowledge base has enlarged dramatically over the past decades. Based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, we are today able to define separate frontotemporal neural networks for the processing of syntactic and semantic information in the left hemisphere and for prosodic processes in the right. Data from electro‐ and magnetencephalographic (EEG/MEG) studies allow us to describe the interaction of these processes in time. Patients with lesions in language‐relevant brain structures provide crucial information for the validation of neurocognitive models. These models of adult language systems are used as a template against which the neural basis of first language acquisition and second language processing are investigated. The adult language system is characterized by fast processes supported by Broca's area in the prefrontal cortex and Wernicke's area in the temporal cortex. During language learning in adulthood, these processing routines slowly develop initially recruiting brain regions beyond those of the neural language network involved in adult native language processing. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. This article is categorized under: Linguistics > Language in Mind and Brain

A depiction of the language‐related regions in the left hemisphere, with major relevant gyri indicated by shading. The different large lobes are also marked by shaded borders. Numbers indicate language‐relevant Brodmann areas (BAs), which Brodmann (1909) defined on the basis of their cytoarchitectonic characteristics. The coordinate labels superior/inferior indicate the position of a gyrus within a lobe (e.g., superior temporal gyrus). The coordinate labels anterior/posterior indicate the position within a gyrus (e.g., anterior superior temporal gyrus). Broca's area comprises the pars opercularis (BA 44) and the pars triangularis (BA 45). Wernicke's area comprises BA 22. Angular gyrus comprises BA 39. Primary auditory cortex is located in BA 41.

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