Brain responses to morphological tones
We will report preliminary results from a recent fMRI experiment on Central Swedish word accents (Roll, Söderström, Mannfolk, Shtyrov, Johansson, & Horne, in preparation). Swedish word accents are similar to Chinese word tones in that different words are associated with different tones. What makes the Swedish tones unique, however, is that they depend not on the word stem by itself, but on the suffix that is attached to the stem. Thus, the Central Swedish pronunciation of lek-en ‘the game’ involves a low tone on the stem lek- (‘Accent 1’), whereas the same stem in lek-ar ‘the games’ has instead a high tone (‘Accent 2’), due to the plural suffix -ar. Previous neurophysiological testing has shown that listeners use word accent tones to rapidly activate and integrate suffixes during online speech processing (Roll, Horne, & Lindgren, 2010). The present data suggest that word accent processing involves mainly the left posterior Superior Temporal Gyrus (pSTG), whereas incorrectly cued suffixes activate left inferior parietal cortex, possibly showing increased difficulty in processing the suffix meaning in terms of number.
About the speakers
Roll and Horne investigate different aspects of language processing in the brain, in particular how different types of linguistic information interact during the on-line processing of spoken and written language.