Mapping Syntax Using Imaging: Problems and Prospects for the Study of Neurolinguistic Computation

D. Embick, D. Poeppel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


The study of language in the brain is the study of the computations responsible for the structure and processing of language. Hemodynamic imaging techniques can make a contribution to this area, but only if paired with a theory of the underlying formal processes. Statements like 'syntax is mediated by Broca's area' are too coarse (cognitively and cytoarchitectonically) to constitute insights into neurolinguistic computation. Numerous studies of syntactic processing report activation in Broca's area. However, other studies implicate Broca's area in nonsyntactic/nonlinguistic tasks, ruling out a restrictive linguistic interpretation of this region. This problem results from the failure to recognize that syntax is not a monolithic task, nor is Broca's area a monolithic area. Further progress in this area requires linking neuroimaging studies with detailed theories of the linguistic and nonlinguistic computations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Language & Linguistics
PublisherElsevier Ltd
Number of pages3
ISBN (Print)9780080448541
StatePublished - 2006


  • BA44/45
  • Broca's area
  • FMRI
  • Language
  • Mental computation
  • Neuroimaging
  • Neurolinguistics
  • PET
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Syntax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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