Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Linguistics Braniacs

I've had several students ask about news on the proposed Linguistics Minor (and newly proposed linguistics courses); unfortunately, I don't have an update for you just yet.  If all goes well, the linguistics proposals will go up in front of the College Council this month.  I will post on the blog (and probably on the hallway walls outside my office) as soon as I know anything.  Keep your fingers crossed!

The spring course schedule is now online, so if you're interested in taking any of the linguistics courses that will be offered in the spring, check out that schedule.  Again, we have more linguistics courses than normal being offered all at once, so please register early if you are interested in the courses; otherwise, courses with no students (or few students) will be shut down.

Outside of the SFA Ling world, there are a couple studies that might interest you if you, like me, are fascinated by language and the brain.

The first deals with Broca's area, which is a vital part of your brain that deals with language production and perception.

The above image was taken from an article that focuses on how advertisers should work to target the different parts of their viewers' brains so that the ads will have maximum impact.  That, in and of itself, is interesting.  But the real article I wanted to draw attention to is "Study Sheds New Light on the Nature of Broca's Area in the Brain":

According to Sahin, the results help dispel a commonly taught notion that Broca's area handles expressive language (speaking) while another part of the cortex called Wernicke's area handles receptive language (reading and hearing).  This notion is still taught in many text books.

"Our task involved both reading and speaking, and we found that aspects of word identity, grammar and pronunciation are all computed within Broca's area.  Crucially, information about the identity of a printed word arrives in Broca's area very quickly after it is seen, in parallel with its arrival in Wernicke's ..." said Sahin.

If you have ever heard of or been around a person who has suffered a stroke or brain injury and was left with Broca's (or Wernicke's) aphasia, you may have heard these terms before.  One of the primary reasons Broca's area was associated with speaking (language production) is that the patients who suffered from Broca's aphasia are unable to express their thoughts with words.  They can draw pictures to show what they are thinking, but they cannot use words to coherently express their thoughts.

Another interesting article about language and the brain focuses on multilingualism.

The study under question in this article shows that your brain benefits from multilingualism; appropriately, the title of the article is "Brains benefit from multilingualism."  What that means is that now scientific findings are showing that there are measurable physiological advantages to being able to speak more than one language.  Studying other languages just got more interesting.

Speaking of multilingualism reminds me of a very funny video that proves linguists do have humor... when Ali G interviews Noam Chomsky.

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