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Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax$
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Derek Bickerton and Eörs Szathmáry

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780262013567

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262013567.001.0001

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Reflections on the Neurobiology of Syntax

Reflections on the Neurobiology of Syntax

(p.278) (p.279) 13 Reflections on the Neurobiology of Syntax
Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax

Hagoort Peter

The MIT Press

This chapter examines the neurobiology of syntax, with special emphasis on neural infrastructure for parsing and syntactic encoding. From an anatomical perspective, it argues that Broca’s area is an unrealistic concept; functionally, Broca’s complex, comprised of Broca’s area and adjacent cortex, is relevant for language, but not exclusively for this domain of cognition. The chapter discusses a general proposal to account for the distribution of labor between different components of the language network in the brain. It also presents arguments for the immediacy principle, which denies a privileged status for syntax in sentence processing, and suggests that the temporal profile of event-related potentials requires predictive processing. Finally, it illustrates how the language readiness of the brain might not be dependent on a universal, dedicated neural machinery for syntax, but on a shaping of the neural infrastructure of more general cognitive systems (including memory and unification) in a way that made it optimally suited for the purpose of communication through language.

Keywords:   neurobiology, syntax, neural infrastructure, parsing, syntactic encoding, Broca’s area, Broca’s complex, language, brain, event-related potentials

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