“Localising language in the brain is the new Loch Ness” – K. de Bot

Provocative & tantalising title right?

This was the title of a talk I attended to as part of the panel organised by Viorica Marian at ISB9 Singapore on “Neurolinguistic & psycholinguistic advances in bilingualism and multilingualism research” in which I was presenting. And well… when you are Kees de Bot and have made such an impact in the field of psycholinguists and bilingualism, you are totally allowed to give a talk with such a title.

But this talk did not have just a provocative title, it was the fruit of a careful review of the recent neuroimaging and brain stimulation research that attempts to find where language is in the brain. And what a talk! In a provocative 20 minutes, de Bot explained his view that neuro studies, which attempt to localise language in the brain, simply lead to mixed and often inconclusive results. His claim was bold but absolutely in line with modern conceptions of human cognition and contended that the reason why the literature is so inconclusive may just be because there isn’t a thing that is localisable as “language” in the brain. The consequences are huge and put a serious question mark on whether anything is stored at all or whether language, just like any other complex human behaviour, is only “represented” by series of activations, sequences and networks in an all interactive human brain.

I am totally thrilled because this is precisely the line of thought I have been leaning towards, after those four years of research and, in fact, where I contend that language is not modular and removed from other processes but, rather, that just like most of human complex cognition relies on a highly functionally integrated dynamic network and can influenced and be influenced by such. Pinker, Chomsky and Fodor: “close, but no cigar!”

I don’t know what you think about it but I think it’s pretty cool!

So long!

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