On June 1 our students from the English Language Department had the opportunity to listen to a guest lecture in neurolinguistics by professor Jeffrey Green from the University of Illinois.
The topic of the lecture was “Language in the Brain” and as such it provided the more recent findings about the way our brain processes, interprets and produces language. It followed from the familiar notion of there being two specialized areas in the brain that multiple zones in the brain are engaged in language processing and everything connected to it. As a prop, the professor showed the mind map tool and explained the method of electroencephalography.
The lecture showed how sound sequences, the sounds that make up words, are the primary stimulus which the brain interprets in a top-down manner: all the possible meanings are considered first and then sequentially narrowed down into a single context.
Prior to that, it was explained that the brain is fully engaged in processing language, as the sound sequence leads the brain to associate words with experiences: for example, the word run activates those areas in the brain specialized for motor movement, along with other meanings activating other zones in the brain.
In addition, the professor showed findings of comparison of native and non-native speakers of a language, showing what neurolinguistics reveals about language learning. The main take away was that proficiency, not age, is the primary indicator of proximity to native-like understanding of a language.
Throughout the lecture, students were very engaged and there was ample opportunity to pose discussion questions, with which the lecture also concluded.