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CORDIS

Linguistic Tuning Shifts in the Human Brain during Second Language Learning

Project description

Learning about the brain’s language learning systems

What goes on in our brain when we learn a second language? What are the core cortical regions involved in processing semantics (the meaning of words and sentences) and syntax (the grammatical structures of sentences)? What specific semantic or syntactic information do these regions represent? Does the spatial organisation of semantic and syntactic representations dynamically change over the course of learning a new language? The EU-funded LINGSHIFT project will answer these questions. It will use a new paradigm to identify the dynamic shifts in linguistic representations. Specifically, it will combine longitudinal non-invasive brain imaging using naturalistic stimuli and a powerful predictive modelling approach. The findings will improve our understanding of language systems in the brain.

Objective

Language learning and fostering linguistic diversity within the European Union are priorities of the European Commission. Learning new languages can change the structure and function of the cerebral cortex, affecting the way we think. However, despite extensive research, we lack a fine-grained description of how dynamical changes in cortical representations mediate learning concepts and linguistic structures of a new language. The LINGSHIFT program will use a cutting-edge paradigm to identify the dynamic shifts in linguistic representations by addressing three main questions: What are the core cortical regions involved in processing semantics (the meaning of words and sentences) and syntax (the grammatical structures of sentences) during language learning? What specific semantic or syntactic information do these regions represent? Does the spatial organization of semantic and syntactic representations dynamically change over the course of learning a new language? To investigate this, LINGSHIFT will combine longitudinal non-invasive brain imaging using naturalistic stimuli and a powerful predictive modelling approach in a multidisciplinary work program. First, LINGSHIFT will create an open-access longitudinal functional MRI language comprehension and production dataset. This dataset will be recorded across a one-year period of adults learning a new language. Second, it will unravel the cortical semantic and syntactic representations using a predictive modelling approach that makes use of state-of-the-art deep neural network language models. Third, it will identify the dynamical changes in semantic and syntactic representations during language acquisition. LINGSHIFT will provide new predictions about long-term dynamics and cortical changes that will improve our understanding of language systems in the brain. It will place important constraints on theoretical frameworks of second language learning that will help modernise language teaching.

Host institution

TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITAT BERLIN
Net EU contribution
€ 1 499 885,00
Address
STRASSE DES 17 JUNI 135
10623 Berlin
Germany

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Region
Berlin Berlin Berlin
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 1 499 885,00

Beneficiaries (2)