Lars Meyer, Max Plank Institute, Leipzig, on How brain electrophysiology shapes language

Publicerad den 13 februari 2024

Date 13 February Time: 13.15-15.00 On site: SOL:H402 Zoom:

On 13 March, Lars Meyer (Max Plank Institute, Leipzig) will talk about How brain electrophysiology shapes language.


Current research into the neurobiology of language puts strong focus on the role of periodic electrophysiological activity—so-called neural oscillations—for auditory and linguistic processing. Electrophysiological cycles are thought to provide processing time windows for acoustic and abstract linguistic units (e.g., prosodic and syntactic phrases, respectively). Most work has studied such functions in response to speech, that is, driven by acoustic or abstract cues available from the stimulus. My presentation turns this perspective around. I am presenting evidence that oscillations shape the comprehension and acquisition of language, as well as language as such, from the inside out. First, I discuss evidence that slow-frequency oscillations time-constrain our ability to form multi-word units during auditory comprehension and reading. Second, I show that the underlying neural rhythm may be reflected in the temporal architecture of prosody and syntax across the world’s languages. Third, I present cross-sectional electrophysiological results that suggest a tight relationship between the ontogenetic acceleration of brain rhythms—from slow to fast—and the gradual refinement of the temporal resolution of acoustic–phonological processing. In sum, I suggest that the built-in pace of brain electrophysiology poses an electrophysiological bottleneck for language acquisition, comprehension, and language as a cultural system.