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What Are the Most Recent Developments in Neuro-Linguistics?

Neuro-linguistics is the study of language and its relationship to both the brain itself, in totality, and its underlying structure. Neuro-linguists also study how the brain processes language and in which locations within the brain such processing takes place. The following studies apply to both written and spoken communication, but the emphasis is on the spoken portion of the studied languages and in the processing of these languages in the brain.

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What’s New?

The most recent study, as shown through the Journal of Neuro-linguistics, concerns how music affects language. Principally, that study concerns the pitch of language in vowel sounds and shifts and how the pitch of each subject’s speech related to musical pitches. The researchers studied subcortical electrophysiological stimuli and each subject’s reactions to those stimuli.

According to the Journal of Neuro-linguistics, the researchers collected data and formed a hypothesis that supposes differences between the processing of musical pitches and the processing of spoken pitches in the auditory brainstem. This difference was most marked in speakers of tone languages, such as most Asian languages.

A second study followed the speakers of both Palestinian Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. Communities of people who speak two versions of the same language are called diglossic. Diglossic communities assign two levels of import and social status to each language version. One, for example, might be used in direct, informal spoken conversation while the other would be reserved for formal settings and for written communication.

The researchers then applied the concepts of diglossia to a series of patients suffering from aphasia, which is the inability to communicate effectively because of illness, poisoning, or some such other outside stimulus that adversely affects the brain. Their chief aim was to determine if the aphasia affected both language versions equally, affected only one version, or affected both versions but to a differing degree for each version.

A third study involved ambiguous words and their formation in the brains and speech patterns of Hebrew-speaking adolescents. The researchers presented each adolescent subject with a pair of words, one of which was “ambiguous,” or had two possible meanings. One of the meanings was the dominant meaning of the word among all Hebrew speakers, while the second was an implied meaning based on colloquial usage.

The researches studied the language-processing portions of the adolescents’ brains as they pored over the sets of word pairs. They found that the young people’s processing and recognition of the dominant word meanings matched those of mature adults, but their recognition and processing of the implied meanings was not of the same level. They hypothesized that the lack of life experience necessitated heightened activity in the brain’s right hemisphere as the young people struggled to determine the secondary meanings to these words.

Conclusion

Most of the newest research in the field of neuro-linguistics concerns the processing of language rather than the development of new words by native speakers of the studied languages. The researchers studying these processes come from around the world, and the general thrust of many concurrent studies is much the same.

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