"The apparent ease with which we comprehend spoken language is remarkable; however, despite over a half-century of intensive research spanning a range of intellectual disciplines, the cognitive mechanisms and neurobiological bases that underlie this ability remain poorly understood. Recent advances in adjacent domains of cognitive neuroscience (e.g. scene analysis and object recognition in vision, limbic and motoric control, etc.), as well as a reappreciation for Bayesian approaches to perception have rekindled the interest in the extent to which our higher-order knowledge of the world shapes our perceptual experiences. The fundamental aim of this proposal is to investigate how and when listeners use information about phonetic and lexical patterns in their language to generate predictions of what they are to hear next. The proposed research combines several inter-disciplinary techniques (experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience), permitting a focus on the time course of when such knowledge becomes available and is exploited by the listener. Here, the relatively rare linguistic phenomenon of long-distance sibilant harmony in Basque (an understudied linguistic isolate) is the test case in a paradigm of behavioral and electrophysiological (EEG/MEG) experiments investigating how listeners carve up the noisy, incoming acoustic signal using what they know about the linguistic patterns in their language. The advanced imaging facilities at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL), combined with its location in the Basque Country and the concentration of experts in the Basque language, make it an optimal location to carry out the research proposed within this application."
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