Chapters 6- Cognition 05. Language

05. Language

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"By limiting the purely physiological study of language, we may never penetrate to the internal faculty whose language is the manifestation or outward sign" Miiller, 1861.

Language [ 3 , 4 , 57 ] is the function that allows us to communicate with each other. Whether spoken, written or signed, communication plays a vital role in our life. Indeed, through language we can express our thoughts, our needs and desires, we can inform each other and inform yourself about possible threats or dangers.

Without language, there would have been no history or progress ... Short, language is at the heart if the top of the most important cognitive functions for humans [ 5 ].

1. Language and languages:

Language is our ability to encode abstract or concrete elements of a sequence of signs and symbols understood by others. These signs are structured in a precise manner to form expressions that have meaning.

All these signs and rules are structuring their language. Today there are over 6,000 languages ​​around the world [ 173 ] 1,000 languages ​​in New Guinea [ 174 ]!

The number of symbols and words of a particular language is not infinite. However, thanks to their different combinations according phrases can form an infinite number of expressions. This demonstrates the enormous power of language.

The brain's ability to recognize individual words in the verbal flow someone is something very remarkable. Just listen to a language that is foreign to us to realize the difficulty of isolating components. A person who speaks his language does not separate the words in silence, as the spaces between written words, and yet, our brain recognizes them individually and assigns a meaning.

2. Vocal apparatus:

To speak, we have a very sophisticated vocal apparatus [ 175 ]. The human vocal tract can be compared to a musical instrument wind and string [ 175 ]. It includes a source of wind: the lungs (the generator), a structure that vibrates: the vocal cords in the larynx (vibrator), and a series of sound boxes that form the pharynx, mouth and nasal cavity (resonator or amplifier). The transformation of the laryngeal speech is then completed by the position of the soft palate, tongue, lips and teeth that act (modulators) of sound.

3. Brain language areas:

There are two brain regions heavily involved in language: Wernicke's area and Broca's area [ 41 , 74 ].

3.1. Wernicke's area:

It is located in the temporal lobe right next to the primary and secondary auditory cortex. It provides an understanding of the elements of language. Wernicke's area receives information from the auditory cortex to the spoken language, the analysis and sends impulses to Broca's area via the arcuate fasciculus.

3.2. The arcuate fasciculus:

Recent studies have shown that the arcuate fasciculus instead connects the Wernicke area of the primary motor cortex [ 198 ] located behind Broca's area instead of terminate directly on it. This is the lateral portion of the upper longitudinal beam which connects Wernicke's area to Broca's area via the supra-marginal gyrus [ 198 ].

3.3. Broca's area:

Located on the frontal lobe, Broca's area is responsible for the expression of language. It is connected to the primary motor area that controls the contractions of the various muscles of the body, including the larynx, involved in speech.

4. Cerebral lateralization:

The language is mostly under the control of one of the two hemispheres of the brain [ 41 ], called the dominant [hemisphere 50 ]. This is one aspect of the general asymmetry of brain function called: cerebral lateralization [ 166 ].

Dominant hemisphere is almost always the left (in 90% of cases [ 96 ]) in right-handed. At the left, brain physiology is both more variable and less well known among individuals: the dominant hemisphere is often the left, but sometimes the right, in other cases, it seems that lateralization is less clear and that the two hemispheres are more balanced [ 4 ].

However, this categorical view of a dominant hemisphere for language is far from absolute. Recent studies have demonstrated the important role of the right hemisphere in the intonation (prosody) [ 41 ], faculty by which we can formulate a single sentence in various ways for it to have completely different meaning. It turns a statement into a command, a wish or a question.