Lexical representation of nouns and verbs in the late bilingual brain

Jing Yang, Li Hai Tan, Ping Li

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38 Scopus citations


Neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies of English and other Western languages suggest that basic lexical categories such as nouns and verbs are represented in different brain circuits. By contrast, research from Chinese indicates overlapping brain regions for nouns and verbs. How does a bilingual brain support the representation and organization of nouns and verbs from typologically distinct languages such as Chinese and English? In this fMRI study we examined the neural representations of nouns and verbs in late Chinese-English bilinguals. Results indicate that the late bilinguals, not surprisingly, showed no significant differences in brain activation for nouns versus verbs in Chinese. Surprisingly, they also showed little neural differentiation of nouns and verbs in English, suggesting the use of native language mechanisms for the processing of second language stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)674-682
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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