Academic journal article Reading Improvement

An Examination of the Functional Relationship between Brain and Language

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

An Examination of the Functional Relationship between Brain and Language

Article excerpt

This paper focuses on the structure/function relationship of the brain and language. Specifically, this paper first reviews the basic theories concerning cortical structures and language representation. This review is followed by an examination of the major criticisms associated with each theory. Finally, a call for a more sophisticated analysis of the complex relationship between cortical and subcortial structures and language processing and production is presented. This call highlights the need to examine the areas of listening, memory, and information retrieval.

In the past years a number of Speech Communication scholars have turned to neurophysiological research to provide insight and clarity in to the way humans process linguistic stimuli. These speech-oriented studies have been vital in explaining the structure / function relationship of brain and language. However, now that the 'basic" introduction to the area of neurophysiology has been accomplished, it may be time to reevaluate the general principles we have adopted whole heartedly from early neurological studies. If an accurate assessment of language processes is to be achieved, a more sophisticated analysis of the intricacies of the brain, and that entity's role in the production of speech need to be considered. It is no longer appropriate to generalize about language functions and cortical structures. Language and Reading scholars should strive for specificity.

The purpose of this paper is three fold: first, a review of the basic theories related to cortical structures and language representation is presented. Second, the major criticisms associated with each theory are briefly outlined, and finally, some suggestions for adding increased specificity to future speech communication research concerned with cortical processing are offered.

The functional organization of the brain is an area of strong debate. The sensory and motor areas have been mapped (rather precisely), but the areas or structures associated with language processes are not quite as clearly known. What is it that permits an individual to possess language/speech? Why are humans the only creatures able to communicate via a grammatically governed symbol system? The nature and origin of the human capacity to encode and decode ideas into symbols has been an area afforded much scholarly attention. The interest in language comprehension, storage, and production, even after two hundred years of research, still hasn't given up its secrets. The basic issue in all attempts to solve the problem of the relation between language and brain is that of the cortical localization of language and speech: "Which part of the cortex are responsible for acquisition of language codes and their use?" (Luria, 1974, p. 1).

Broca and Wernicke were the first to provide hard -evidence concerning lateralization of speech/language functions in the brain. Carl Wernicke (1874) clearly illustrated a difference between aphasias produced by damage in the frontal lobe of the Left Hemisphere (LH) (i.e., Broca's area) and damage in the temporal lobe of the LH (i.e., Wernicke's area). Aphasia characteristic of Broca's are associated with expression disorders,- whereas, aphasia associated with Werrdcke's area are related to comprehension dysfunctions.

Wernicke illustrated that Broca's area is located in the internal portion of the left frontal lobe. This structure lies directly in front of the area of the brain responsible for the motor representation of the organs of speech (e.g., lips, tongue, plate, vocal cords and face). This discovery led to the assumption that Broca's area is the cerebral structure responsible for the mapping of language programs into articulatory form.

Wernicke's area is located adjacent to the cortical representation of hearing, and it is assumed that this area is involved in the recognition of the patterns of spoken language (Geschwind, 1970). These two areas (Broca's area & Wernicke's area) are believed to be connected by a nerve track This pathway permits the auditory form of a word to be transferred from Wernicke's area where a proposition, word, or idea is converted into a syntactic design to Broca's area where this design is programmed on to the muscles of articulation and projected to the organs of speech. …

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