Abstracts and Chapters


01. Eva Maria Luef

Tracing the human brain's classical language areas in extant and extinct hominids

Language is a cognition that makes us human. It is a function of the structure of the human brain that is made possible by complex wiring of neural networks that evolved over millions of years since humans shared the last common ancestor with the great apes. The human brain accommodates two principle cortical areas that are strongly involved in computing linguistic processes: Broca's and Wernicke's areas. Discovered in the latter half of the 19th century, the regions represent localized but relatively segregated linguistic modules which are linked through connective pathways. Broca's and Wernicke's areas are ancient parts of the primate brain, however, their functional specializations have undergone significant transformations during primate evolution. This chapter will review neurobiological findings concerning the internal make-up and function of the homologous brain areas to Broca's and Wernicke's areas in extant nonhuman primates and discuss relevant knowledge that exists on the brain morphology of extinct hominins. Comparative neurobiology holds the key to understanding how the core language areas have developed their specialized functions in human brains by offering insights into developments that could have been the driving forces for language during evolutionary history.

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02. Robert Ullrich and Katja Liebal

Times change, values change: Criteria for attributing language in species comparative research

Charles Darwin's idea of a common origin of species stimulated cross-species comparative research on all kinds of phenomena, among them language. Research on language, however, is faced with the problem of defining the term at issue. Across times and disciplines, researchers ascribed a notoriously diverse set of properties to the faculty of language. The consequent ambiguity surrounding the term still exists, which is – as we hypothesize – the result of divergent scientific norms and historical influences. The current chapter aims to reconstruct three selected properties of language that historically had an important impact on species comparative language research, but which emerged in fact from social norms and subjective values, namely: (i) the norm of directed progress; (ii) the oral norm; and (iii) the behavioristic norm. The idea of primitive compared to more complex species (i), for instance, marginalized the complexity of birdsong. A narrow focus on the oral modality (ii) precluded the serious investigation of gestures in humans and non-humans. Also, excluding inner mental processes from the area of scientific knowledge (iii) disqualified non-humans from cognitive comparison. In the history of the species comparative language discourse, those value-based norms often created a narrative of human specialty by constraining the applicability of the defining properties to a narrow subset of skills. The current chapter aims to reconstruct the change of values over time in order to point to recurring thoughts and methodological pitfalls such as sampling biases, a priori assumptions and anthropomorphism. By consulting the history of the language discourse, it is possible to explain and reveal the aftermaths of the norms, which strongly influence current research using cross-species comparisons and consequently enter current debates about language definitions.

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03. Adolf Heschl

From grasping to pointing: The evolution of referentiality in man and animals

Pointing with the help of the index finger may be one of the most conspicuous human behavioral patterns. Even though similar behaviors can occasionally be seen in some great apes, the ritualized form of using a special pointing finger to show or explain something to a conspecific suggests that this behavior has become anatomically internalized by our species. Pointing in its various forms represents such a frequently used behavior that human cooperation would be barely imaginable without it. In addition, even the modern digital world still heavily relies on pointing devices, such as the computer mouse or a joystick. Hence, it appears justifiable to treat this unique motor pattern as one of the possible evolutionary ignition sparks which, approximately 6 to 7 million years ago, caused humans and apes to continuously drift apart with regard to their specific socio-cognitive abilities. In other words, the distinct social world of human symbolic communication in all its manifold facets may have begun with the invention of the act of pointing. This review attempts to show that it is possible to develop the following evolutionary scenario: First, the original grasping behavior, as already displayed by primitive primate species (lemurs) slowly evolved into a characteristic begging movement involving the extended hand (in monkeys), and finally, then into a ritualized pointing gesture using the index finger with a clear referential meaning in the Hominoidea (apes and humans). Second, during phylogeny the production of any higher cognitive behavior, such as pointing, always preceded its comprehension when shown by a conspecific. Third, young human infants show grasping and then begging attempts toward remote objects before eventually pointing at them in an intentional manner, which supports the idea that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny (the so-called Biogenetic Law). Fourth, relaxed environmental selection conditions might have been favorable to the evolution of referential pointing in primates. In sum, this may explain why humans and apes, to a certain degree, can communicate with each other in a clearly referential manner about concrete aspects of the world.

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04. Piera Filippi and Bruno Gingras

Emotion communication in animal vocalizations, music and language: An evolutionary perspective

Emotions are a biological universal which allow each individual to react appropriately to the surrounding physical and social environment. Emotions can be expressed and perceived through several sensory modalities. Here, we focus on the communication of emotions in the auditory domain. Specifically, we begin by defining emotions from a broad comparative perspective before turning our attention to acoustic universals in emotion processing in animal vocalizations, human communication (including language), and finally, music. Building on recent findings on cognitive processes and mechanisms underpinning emotional processing shared by these three domains, and on the adaptive role of the ability for emotion communication, we hypothesize that this ability is an evolutionary precursor of the ability for language. Finally, our work offers insights for empirically testable questions within this research framework and proposes that future Piera Filippi and Bruno Gingras 106 investigations should incorporate a comparative lens and consider human non-semantic vocalizations, such as laughter, alongside animal vocalizations.

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05. Manuela M. Marin

Speech processing in congenital amusia: A review of the literature and future directions

Human music, like language, is a cultural universal whose origins remain elusive. Some individuals have a congenital impairment in music processing and singing, which might be biologically rooted. Congenital amusia, a neurodevelopmental disorder, has been studied for around 15 years by only a few research groups worldwide. Although amusia was originally thought of as a music-specific disorder, it was demonstrated relatively quickly that it also affects the perception of speech intonation in laboratory conditions. This finding has spurred a fruitful research program, which has not only contributed to the ongoing debate about modularity by investigating pitch processing in music and speech, but which has also targeted various other aspects of linguistic processing. After a comprehensive introduction into the currently known characteristics of amusia, empirical studies on speech processing in non-tone and tone language speakers diagnosed with amusia will be reviewed. Research on English- and French-speaking amusics has primarily focused on the processing of phonology, linguistic and affective prosody, as well as on verbal memory. Amusics are impaired in several aspects of phonological processing, in differentiating between statements and questions, and further, in perceiving emotional tone. In the last few years, a growing body of research involving tone language speakers has reported impairments in processing of lexical tone and speech intonation among amusics. Hence, research on Mandarin and Cantonese speakers has provided evidence for the notion that amusia is not a disorder specific to non-tone language speakers, and further, it has also increased our knowledge about the core deficits of amusia. Future research will need to replicate current findings in speakers of languages other than those already studied and also clarify how this auditory disorder is linked to other learning disorders.

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06. Iulia Bădescu

The attainment of independence from the mother in primate infants and its implications for the evolution of cooperative breeding in hominins

The infant process of attaining independence from the mother is directly related to the course of lactation and timing in resumption of cycling for mothers, which affect female reproductive rates. Understanding infant development patterns and variations across primates can allow us to evaluate their fitness implications and inform comparative life history models of hominoids. Here, factors leading to inter- and intra-species differences in development and lactation will be evaluated and contextualized relative to sources of life history and socioecological variation. Literature on maternal investment through lactation and on infant nutritional development in the Primate order will then be reviewed. Finally, the concept of alternative behavioral and nutritional perspectives on weaning will be introduced to emphasize that physiological and social needs within the mother-offspring relationship are mitigated, together and separately, to support primate infants in their attainment of independence. A layered perspective that distinguishes between social and physiological mother-infant relationships may be important to consider in evolutionary models aimed at understanding the appearance of cooperative breeding in hominins, as it puts extant nonhuman primates in a position more similar to the human pattern than previously anticipated. This perspective can help us to more accurately determine the evolutionary steps leading to the unique life history traits of contemporary humans.

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07. Monika Abels, Mariek Vanden Abeele, Toke van Telgen and Helma van Meijl

Nod, nod, ignore: An exploratory observational study on the relation between parental mobile media use and parental responsiveness towards young children

There are concerns that contemporary caregivers are so absorbed by their mobile devices that it hampers their responsiveness to their children. Recent ethnographic work suggests that these concerns are warranted. Scholarly work on this issue is scarce, however, and systematic observations of the phenomenon are lacking. This chapter presents an exploratory study in which caregiver-child dyads were systematically observed to assess whether the tendency to respond and the timeliness, strength and emotionality of caregivers' responses to children's bids for attention are negatively affected by phone engagement (Hypothesis 1). Additionally, we investigated whether the relation of phone engagement to caregivers' responsiveness is different than the relation of other distracting activities that caregivers might engage in when caring for a child (Hypothesis 2). We observed caregivers and children between the ages of zero and five in Dutch consultation bureaus and playgrounds. Drawing from observations gathered from 25 caregiver-child dyads, the results show that the likelihood to respond, the timeliness and the strength of caregivers' responses are each negatively affected by phone use. In addition, phone use appeared to be more engaging and therefore affected responsiveness more strongly than being engaged in other distractive activities. Given the importance of parental responsiveness for child and language development, these findings indicate an urgent need for further research on the issue and how it can be addressed.

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08. Annette Hohenberger

Episodic and phenomenal aspects of chaotic itinerancy in language development

Chaotic itinerancy was proposed by Kaneko and Tsuda in order to explain the neurodynamics of cognitive processes. Annemarie Peltzer-Karpf applied this concept fruitfully to language development, thus accounting for the cycle she observed in first (L1) and second (L2) language acquisition, from an initial quasi-stable state of pre-speech behavior over intermediate states of rule-extraction and high variability, to a final steady state of large internal coupling strength. Chaotic itinerancy is an attractive model for language development as it can account for (1) stability and plasticity, (2) synchronized-desynchronized behavior and (3) multistability. In this chapter, I point out episodic and phenomenal aspects of chaotic itinerancy. Firstly, language development occurs in a spatio-temporal context as the infant/child interacts with her external – physical and social – environment. Her language experience shapes internal brain circuits resulting from repeated patterns of neural activity. Secondly, language development has an experiential quality unique to each infant/child, depending on her individual history. This is for her – but also for her caregivers – “what it is like” to acquire language. Through self-organization, self-similar linguistic patterns emerge which are embedded within each other on various time-scales (micro-, meso-, and macro-). Through this concept of multiple nesting, traditionally opposite accounts, such as acquisition (nature) and learning (nurture), can be integrated into an overarching nonlinear dynamic systems (NDS) account of language development. Annemarie Peltzer-Karpf pioneered and advanced this research agenda decisively throughout the itinerancy of her academic life and inspired many to join her on this journey.

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09. Elliot Murphy

Interfaces (traveling oscillations) + Recursion (delta-theta code) = Language

Formulating a minimalist model for language, Gärtner and Sauerland (2007) collected a series of papers exploring the possibility that the recursive generative component plus the conceptual and articulatory interfaces provide the essential components of the system. This was summarized as ‘Interfaces + Recursion = Language’. Over the past decennium a range of linking hypotheses have been drawn up to better ground this architecture within the brain. In the realms of cognitive and systems neuroscience, the search for the neural code across a number of domains has seen a marked transition from the analysis of individual spike timings to larger patterns of synchronization. This chapter argues that the language sciences should embrace these systems-level developments, with recent findings concerning the scope of possible oscillatory synchronization in the human brain revealing the existence of traveling/migrating oscillations, adding further impetus to reject the typical stasis found in cartographic neurolinguistics models. After exploring empirically-motivated revisions to the neural code for hierarchical phrase structure, it is discussed how this code could provide a new perspective on language disorders, fluid intelligence and language acquisition.

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10. Margit Reitbauer

Lessons learned from brain responses: The second language learning experience

Learning a second language (L2) is a complex process that undoubtedly involves the acquisition of a complex implicit linguistic system. Lexical entries, their features and forms, complex syntactical and phonological systems as well as rules on the pragmatic use of language have to be acquired. The acquisition process itself involves numerous sub-processes that interact at every stage of learning the second language. Learners develop sensitivity to regularities in the absence of verbalizable knowledge, which can be traced in brain responses. Event-related potential (ERP) responses like the P600, N400 and especially the early left anterior negativity (ELAN), which are produced within a few hundred milliseconds after syntactic and semantic violations, are most likely not the result of conscious thought processes. Thus, it seems that grammatical form-meaning connections, grammatical categories, chunking and statistical learning in orthography, phonology and syntax are learned implicitly. When acquiring a second language, we form recognition patterns, e.g., for the speech sounds and the grammar specific to the newly acquired language. Research has found evidence for native-like brain responses after very little exposure in classroom settings. It is still controversial which role language analytical ability (the specific ability for learning languages) plays in this process, which is often named as one of the components of language aptitude. Moreover, we still do not know how implicit linguistic systems are acquired. In the following, I will take a closer look at brain responses during language processing and factors associated with second language acquisition, such as perceptibility, prosody-syntax integration, letter-sound integration and pragmatic communication ability. By shedding light on some recent developments in second language acquisition research, I will make an attempt to connect brain research to language learning and teaching.

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11. Pia Resnik

The effect of age in L2 ultimate attainment: Revisiting the evidence

Learning another language is challenging, and apparently even more so in adulthood. The assumption of a critical period for second language acquisition (SLA) based on brain maturational constraints has persisted for a very long time. This view has been challenged though, and proponents of critical periods or sensitive periods are these days most often in favor of a plurality thereof in the context of SLA. This means there are multiple periods rather than only one depending on the different skills (e.g., pronunciation and morphosyntax), and the ability to develop these is often assumed to be multiply determined. Drawing on previous research on the effect of age and the nerve growth factor, the view that “the sooner, the better” holds true in any case regarding the successful sequential attainment of another language (LX) will be challenged: neuronal plasticity is certainly ongoing at an advanced age, which means that the ability to learn another language does not end, and factors other than age might be more important regarding cortical representation. Furthermore, three premises for study designs on the age factor in SLA will be proposed, thereby stressing the need for a change of paradigm towards a holistic approach to LX users and the necessity to understand the process of LX attainment as a dynamic one. Finally, this chapter highlights the importance of emotions in (un)successful LX acquisition, which is linked to the need for a shift towards a focus on individual differences instead of universals when grappling with the complexity underlying ultimate attainment in an LX. All in all, it is suggested that the view on the age of onset of acquisition (AoA) influencing proficiency in a uniform manner might have been too simplistic as the processes underlying SLA are multifaceted and entangled.

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12. Milena Kong-Insam

Age constraints in phonological learning: On the relevance and efficiency of pronunciation training

Accent has shown to be one of the most salient features of speech. Listeners are particularly sensitive to foreign or L2 accents, which are phonological variations attributable to L1 influence on the L2. At the same time, L2 accents are very hard to overcome. As L2 research has shown, pronunciation is the language skill which is most difficult to master, especially late in life. The need for efficient pronunciation instruction in schools and tertiary institutions is therefore undeniable. The chapter at hand provides a literature review of whether pronunciation instruction can be efficient, given maturational constraints with growing age. It investigates the existence of neural plasticity in adults in terms of phonetic learning as well as phonological attainment in adult L2 learners and will thus show that pronunciation training can be efficiently used in adult language instruction.

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13. Sabrina Turker

Exploring the neurofunctional underpinnings of dyslexia: A review focusing on dyslexic children

Dyslexia is a hereditary impairment characterized by effortful and slow reading acquisition that is often accompanied by severe difficulties in writing and spelling. Inconsistencies regarding the definition and assessment of dyslexia have led to considerable variation in prevalence rates and gender-ratios. However, it is agreed upon that dyslexia affects between 3 and 17% of school-aged children who mostly display deficits in pre-literacy skills already at pre-school age. Since neuroimaging provides a unique opportunity to shed light on potential anomalies in neural functioning underlying this impairment, reviewing the most recent results of fMRI studies of affected children can help us better understand this impairment. The present chapter provides a review of 24 functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies (conducted between 2000 and 2016) investigating reading-related processing in children diagnosed with dyslexia (age: 8–15 years). The results suggest a clear underactivation in almost all areas designated as core reading areas (left-hemispheric occipito-temporal, temporo-parietal and frontal circuits) during orthographic, phonological and auditory tasks. Different and reduced patterns of activation were also found in the inferior frontal cortex, with a peak in the inferior frontal gyrus. Moreover, numerous studies reported a large network of compensatory activation in right-hemispheric and bilateral reading-related areas in dyslexic children, which was particularly active in more demanding tasks (e.g., rhyming of words and non-words). These findings support the hypothesis that children with dyslexia often also display deficits in auditory comprehension of speech input and generally struggle with the processing of phonological properties of words and non-words as well as simpler units like letters and symbols.

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14. Peter Bierbaumer

HEAFOD (‘head’) and BRÆGEN (‘brain’) in Old English medical texts

Based on the comprehensive Dictionary of Old English (DOE) and the reading of the relevant Old English (OE) texts, this chapter illustrates the occurrence of two central medical terms, heafod ‘head’ and brægen ‘brain’, in OE medical texts. After a survey of OE medical texts and their editions in the first part, the second part presents the data arranged according to the main sub-meanings of the two items as presented in the DOE. Most of the quotations are taken from the DOE, with some additions by the author. The translation of the quotations enables the non-specialist reader to follow the argumentation of the author.

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15. Georg Marko and Ute Wimmer

The brain is like a muscle – the brain is like a control center: Conceptualizing the brain in expert and popularized scientific discourses

This chapter examines conceptualizations of the brain as constructed in the discourses of popular science and the neurosciences, focusing on the dichotomy between mentalism and physicalism. This dichotomy rests on further conceptual oppositions, namely holism vs. fragmentation (brain or brain components), personalization vs. de-personalization (related to or abstracted from persons), and agentization vs. passivization (active or passive and not central in processes). The chapter takes a corpus-based discourse analytical approach, using corpora of popular scientific books on the brain and academic neuroscientific articles. As a triangulating effort, we add a questionnaire-based investigation into students' understanding of differences in linguistic representations of the brain. We examine various linguistic structures assumed to contribute to the conceptualizations mentioned. Quantitative results for these constructions are in line with our assumption that mentalism is more strongly associated with the expert-tolay discourse of popular science and physicalism more with the expert-to-expert discourse of the neurosciences. Responses to the questionnaire indicate that mentalist and physicalist concepts play a role in students' understanding of the brain, but not in a clear and consistent way, possibly as a result of representations of the brain students are exposed to which go beyond the discourses examined in our research.

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16. Manuela Wagner, Fabiana Cardetti and Michael Byram

The humble linguist: Interdisciplinary perspectives on teaching intercultural citizenship

Current worldwide events necessitate educational approaches which prepare students to engage in purposeful and successful intercultural dialogue. In this chapter, we discuss how theories of Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC), Intercultural Citizenship (ICit), and Intellectual Humility (IH) can inform each other and provide a basis for further developments in foreign language education and beyond. To examine how education for intercultural citizenship and intellectual humility can be mutually enriching, we pose three research questions: 1) How can we operationalize Intellectual Humility (IH) by drawing from Intercultural Competence (IComp), ICC, and ICit theories? 2) How can IH enrich ICit education? 3) What is the role of world/foreign language education in fostering IH education? Our analysis demonstrates that there is considerable overlap between the theories of IH and ICit (which includes IComp and ICC). We then show how combining aspects of both theories can support the implementation of ICit pedagogy by strengthening overlapping concepts or adding components from IH into the different dimensions of ICC, and explain how ICit can operationalize theories of IH. We conclude that theory in ICC/ICit provides a foundation for a pedagogy which is competence-based and which makes IH accessible and feasible for teachers in schools and other educational institutions by creating a combined model of ICit/IH for pedagogical purposes. Finally, we briefly discuss additional opportunities of applying theories of IH to better understand the benefits of language education.

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17. Johannes A. Scherling

Frames, cognition, ideology. And Chomsky.

Within the field of cognitive linguistics, Frame Semantics and Conceptual Metaphor Theory are two major and influential players. While Charles Fillmore created his approach to provide a model for how knowledge is stored interdependently in our minds via frames, George Lakoff further developed this model to the level of metaphors and gave it a political dimension. He linked metaphors and frames to ideology and the struggle for power, epitomized by his engagement in shaping the discourse used by US Democrats in their struggle for interpretative dominance against their Republican counterparts. In showing how the use of images and frames is connected to both experience and worldview, Lakoff managed to further deconstruct the idea of language as a neutral way of representing reality and showed its contested role in the struggle for political power. Due to Lakoff's own political investment, however, he is highly critical of conservative discourse, but less so regarding the problematic aspects of liberal discourse. It took another prominent linguistic figure and political activist, Noam Chomsky, to redirect the discussion not to right vs. left or conservative vs. liberal, but to just vs. unjust and to contextualize and challenge it in terms of vested interests of people in positions of power. In this chapter, I propose that the three approaches by Fillmore, Lakoff and Chomsky are compatible, even complementary, despite, or rather, because of their differences, with regard to the light they shine on the understanding of the public impact of political discourse from different angles. In order to illustrate this, the chapter aims to highlight one part of the development of research areas attempting to connect cognitive linguistics to politics and ideology, and argues for a combination of the Chomskyan knowledge-based approach to criticism of political discourse and Fillmore's and Lakoff's theories on the cognitive implications of language use and ideology.

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18. Wolfgang Viereck

Monats- und Wochentagsbezeichnungen im Wandel der Zeit

Das vorliegende Kapitel befasst sich mit den Bezeichnungen für Monats- und Wochentage im Deutschen und deren etymologischer Herkunft. Es werden einerseits Begriffslisten vorgestellt und Namen erklärt, die in der Vergangenheit und/oder teils heute noch in Gebrauch sind. Andererseits werden die Bezeichnungen der vergleichenden sprachwissenschaftlichen Methode unterzogen, wobei auf deren Vorkommen in anderen (teils extinkten) Sprachen hingewiesen wird und im Weiteren die sprachlichen und lautlichen Veränderungen, die diese Begriffe durchgemacht haben, angeführt werden.

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