The LATL as locus of composition: MEG evidence from English and Arabic

Masha Westerlund, Itamar Kastner, Meera Al Kaabi, Liina Pylkkänen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neurolinguistic investigations into the processing of structured sentences as well as simple adjective-noun phrases point to the left anterior temporal lobe (LATL) as a leading candidate for basic linguistic composition. Here, we characterized the combinatory profile of the LATL over a variety of syntactic and semantic environments, and across two languages, English and Arabic. The contribution of the LATL was investigated across two types of composition: the optional modification of a predicate (modification) and the satisfaction of a predicate's argument position (argument saturation). Target words were presented during MEG recordings, either in combinatory contexts (e.g. "eats meat") or in non-combinatory contexts (preceded by an unpronounceable consonant string, e.g. "xqkr meat"). Across both languages, the LATL showed increased responses to words in combinatory contexts, an effect that was robust to composition type and word order. Together with related findings, these results solidify the role of the LATL in basic semantic composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-134
Number of pages11
JournalBrain and Language
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Composition
  • Left anterior temporal lobe
  • MEG
  • Semantics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


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