Neural correlates of processing sentences and compound words in Chinese

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Bulut T., Hung Y., Tzeng O., Wu D. H.

PLoS ONE, vol.12, no.12, 2017 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 12 Issue: 12
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Doi Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188526
  • Journal Name: PLoS ONE
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Istanbul Medipol University Affiliated: Yes


Sentence reading involves multiple linguistic operations including processing of lexical and compositional semantics, and determining structural and grammatical relationships among words. Previous studies on Indo-European languages have associated left anterior temporal lobe (aTL) and left interior frontal gyrus (IFG) with reading sentences compared to reading unstructured word lists. To examine whether these brain regions are also involved in reading a typologically distinct language with limited morphosyntax and lack of agreement between sentential arguments, an FMRI study was conducted to compare passive reading of Chinese sentences, unstructured word lists and disconnected character lists that are created by only changing the order of an identical set of characters. Similar to previous findings from other languages, stronger activation was found in mainly left-lateralized anterior temporal regions (including aTL) for reading sentences compared to unstructured word and character lists. On the other hand, stronger activation was identified in left posterior temporal sulcus for reading unstructured words compared to unstructured characters. Furthermore, reading unstructured word lists compared to sentences evoked stronger activation in left IFG and left inferior parietal lobule. Consistent with the literature on Indo-European languages, the present results suggest that left anterior temporal regions subserve sentence-level integration, while left IFG supports restoration of sentence structure. In addition, left posterior temporal sulcus is associated with morphological compounding. Taken together, reading Chinese sentences engages a common network as reading other languages, with particular reliance on integration of semantic constituents.