Genetics and language: A neurobiological perspective on the missing link (-ing hypotheses)

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The paper argues that both evolutionary and genetic approaches to studying the biological foundations of speech and language could benefit from fractionating the problem at a finer grain, aiming not to map genetics to "language"-or even subdomains of language such as "phonology" or "syntax"-but rather to link genetic results to component formal operations that underlie processing the comprehension and production of linguistic representations. Neuroanatomic and neurophysiological research suggests that language processing is broken down in space (distributed functional anatomy along concurrent pathways) and time (concurrent processing on multiple time scales). These parallel neuronal pathways and their local circuits form the infrastructure of speech and language and are the actual targets of evolution/genetics. Therefore, investigating the mapping from gene to brain circuit to linguistic phenotype at the level of generic computational operations (subroutines actually executable in these circuits) stands to provide a new perspective on the biological foundations in the healthy and challenged brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-387
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Evolution
  • Functional anatomy
  • Linguistics
  • Neural circuit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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