Symposium: Human language mechanisms as revealed by the MMN
Friday, Sep 11, 2015
The MMN as an index of spoken language processing: what’s new? (Introduction)
Brain Language Lab, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Human language is characterized by the storage of huge vocabularies of ten thousands of symbols and by a sheer endless ability to combine these stored symbols into stings. The ability to store elements and combine them flexibly also characterizes other higher cognitive domains, including music, arithmetics, gestalt/pattern recognition etc. The MMN seems to indicate stored form retrieval and combinatorial processing in different ways: If a stimulus matches a stored memory trace, it is typically larger than that to an unfamiliar stimulus, which does not match a stored trace. In contrast, a stimulus that matches the regular combination of stored elements elicits a smaller MMN than an unfamiliar and irregular sequence violating combinatorial principles. This introduction will point to recent advances in studying the storage vs. combination of complex linguistic forms, thereby addressing key linguistic questions using MMN methods. The potential role of the MMN as an index of language-related perceptual mechanisms, semantic priming, and second language proficiency will also be highlighted.