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   2011, Vol. 43 Issue (02) : 123-131     DOI:
An fMRI Study of Chinese Causative Sentences: the Syntactic Independence of Chinese
FENG Shi-Wen;SHEN Xing-An;Yang Yi-Ming
Key Laboratory of Language Sciences and Neurocognitive Engineering of Jiangsu Province; Institute of Linguistics, Xuzhou Normal University, Xuzhou 221009, China
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Abstract  The brain processing models of syntactic and semantics are important issues in the cognitive neurosciences. In 1957, Noam Chomsky put forward the framework of Syntax Independence. Even today, the hypothesis of Syntax Independence is one of the central topics of linguistics. However, this important language hypothesis has not been well studied by neuroscience researchers. Boland (1997), Grodzinsky et al. (2008) and other researchers showed evidence of syntactic independence, and even proposed specific brain regions involved in independent syntactic processing. However, these studies have been challenged by some other researchers (e.g.,Willems & Hagoort 2009). In fact, there are many morphological and syntactic markers in English and other Indo-European languages, and the syntactic variations in these languages can be embodied by morphological changes. In contrast, a language like Chinese does not have clear correspondent morphological changes like the Indo-European languages do. Consequently, if in the current experiment we can get at the neural processing of a morphologically impoverished languages like Chinese, we can find more conclusive evidence for the hypothesis of Syntax Independence in the brain.
The materials in this study are two types of Chinese Causative Sentences with an equivalent meaning. For example, (1) Shichang Shi Jingji Fanrong (DCS);(2) Shichang Fanrong Le Jingji (RCS). These two sentences have the same meaning “The market made the economy prosperous” in Chinese. The sentence (1) is termed Dominant Causative Sentences (DCS) and the (2) is termed Recessive Causative Sentences (RCS).
The fMRI acquisistion was done on a GE 3.0T machine with an event-related design. The participants were 19 healthy, right-handed, native Chinese speakers, 10 males and 9 females, with ages ranging from 20 to 26 years. The experimental data was analyzed with the AFNI software package. Images were spatial normalized to the Talairach and Tournoux brain atlas and smoothed with a FWHM=5mm kernel and eliminate the linear drift. The average impulse response function of the different conditions were obtained in an ANOVA analysis.
The results showed that the left inferior frontal gyrus, the left middle frontal gyrus, and some other gyus in the left and right hemisphere were activated in the processing of Chinese Causative sentences. Further analysis showed that the left frontal lobe plays an important role in Chinese syntactic processing. The left inferior frontal lobe areas BA44 and BA47 are more sensitive to the Chinese syntactic processing when comparing the brain activations of DCS and RCS with a corrected p value 0.05. These results indicate that Chinese syntactic processing without morphological changes can be separated from semantics. The processing of syntactic independence is more closely related with the left inferior frontal gyrus than the left middle frontal gyrus, and the temporal lobe is not found in Chinese syntactic independence processing.
Keywords Mandarin Chinese      syntactic      left frontal brain area      functional magnetic resonance imaging     
Corresponding Authors: Yang Yi-Ming   
Issue Date: 28 February 2011
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FENG Shi-Wen
SHEN Xing-An
Yang Yi-Ming
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FENG Shi-Wen,SHEN Xing-An,Yang Yi-Ming. An fMRI Study of Chinese Causative Sentences: the Syntactic Independence of Chinese[J]. , 2011, 43(02): 123-131.
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