Language Study Offers New Twist on Mind – Body Connection

[Source:  Medical News Today]
NU

Research from Northeastern professor of psychology Iris Berent and her colleagues finds that spoken language and motor systems are intricately linked — though not in the way that has been widely believed.

New research from Northeastern professor of psychology Iris Berent and her colleagues indicates that language and motor systems are intricately linked–though not in the way that has been widely believed.

Spoken languages express words by sound patterns, some of which are preferred to others. For instance, the sound pattern “blog” is preferred to “lbog” in English as well as many other languages. The researchers wanted to know what accounts for such preferences–specifically, whether they reflect abstract rules of language in the brain, or if upon hearing speech people attempt to simulate how those sounds are produced by the speech motor system.

Their findings support previous research indicating the connection between people’s knowledge of language and the motor system; however, that connection is different than what has been previously assumed. The motor system doesn’t drive linguistic preference directly, they found. Rather, abstract rules of language guide linguistic preference, and these abstract rules can trigger motor action. In other words, motor action is a consequence of–not the cause of–linguistic preference.

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