THE NEUROLOGY OF SYNTAX: BBS Call for Commentators

Stevan Harnad harnad at flagstaff.Princeton.EDU
Mon Mar 8 15:27:44 EST 1999

        Below is the abstract of a forthcoming BBS target article

       *** please see also 5 important announcements about new BBS
       policies and address change at the bottom of this message) ***


            by Yosef Grodzinsky

This article has been accepted for publication in Behavioral and Brain
Sciences (BBS), an international, interdisciplinary journal providing
Open Peer Commentary on important and controversial current research in
the biobehavioral and cognitive sciences.

Commentators must be BBS Associates or nominated by a BBS Associate. To
be considered as a commentator for this article, to suggest other
appropriate commentators, or for information about how to become a BBS
Associate, please send EMAIL by April 8th to:

    bbs at


    Behavioral and Brain Sciences
    ECS: New Zepler Building
    University of Southampton
    Highfield, Southampton

If you are not a BBS Associate, please send your CV and the name of a
BBS Associate (there are currently over 10,000 worldwide) who is
familiar with your work. All past BBS authors, referees and
commentators are eligible to become BBS Associates.

To help us put together a balanced list of commentators, please give
some indication of the aspects of the topic on which you would bring
your areas of expertise to bear if you were selected as a commentator.
An electronic draft of the full text is available for inspection
with a WWW browser, anonymous ftp or gopher according to the
instructions that follow after the abstract.



        Yosef Grodzinsky

        Department of Psychology
        Tel Aviv University
        Tel Aviv 69978


        Aphasia Research Center
        Department of Neurology
        Boston University School of Medicine

        yosef1 at

    ABSTRACT: A new view of the functional role of left anterior cortex
    in language use is proposed. The experimental record indicates that
    most human linguistic abilities are not localized in this region.
    In particular, most of syntax (long thought to be there) is not
    located in Broca's area and its vicinity (operculum, insula and
    subjacent white matter). This cerebral region, implicated in
    Broca's aphasia, does have a role in syntactic processing, but a
    highly specific one: it is neural home to receptive mechanisms
    involved in the computation of the relation between
    transformationally moved phrasal constituents and their extraction
    sites (in line with the Trace-Deletion Hypothesis). It is also
    involved in the construction of higher parts of the syntactic tree
    in speech production. By contrast, basic combinatorial capacities
    necessary for language processing - e.g., structure building
    operations, lexical insertion - are not supported by the neural
    tissue of this cerebral region, nor is lexical or combinatorial

    The dense body of empirical evidence supporting this restrictive
    view comes mainly from several angles on lesion studies of syntax
    in agrammatic Broca's aphasia. Five empirical arguments are
    presented: experiments in sentence comprehension; cross-linguistic
    considerations (where aphasia findings from several language types
    are pooled together and scrutinized comparatively); grammaticality
    and plausibility judgments; real-time processing of complex
    sentences; and rehabilitation. Also discussed are recent results
    from functional neuroimaging, and from structured observations on
    speech production of Broca's aphasics.

    Syntactic abilities, nonetheless, are distinct from other cognitive
    skills, and represented entirely and exclusively in the left
    cerebral hemisphere. Although more widespread in the left
    hemisphere than previously thought, they are clearly distinct from
    other human combinatorial and intellectual abilities. The
    neurological record (based on functional imaging, split-brain and
    right-hemisphere damaged patients, as well as patients suffering
    from a breakdown of mathematical skills) indicates that language is
    a distinct, modularly organized neurological entity. Combinatorial
    aspects of the language faculty reside in the human left cerebral
    hemisphere, but only the transformational component (or algorithms
    that implement it in use) is located in and around Broca's area.

    KEYWORDS: agrammatism, aphasia, Broca's area, cerebral localization,
    dyscalculia, functional neuroanatomy, grammatical transformation,
    modularity, neuroimaging, syntax, trace-deletion.


To help you decide whether you would be an appropriate commentator for
this article, an electronic draft is retrievable from the World Wide
Web or by anonymous ftp from the US or UK BBS Archive.
Ftp instructions follow below. Please do not prepare a commentary on
this draft. Just let us know, after having inspected it, what relevant
expertise you feel you would bring to bear on what aspect of the

The URLs you can use to get to the BBS Archive:

To retrieve a file by ftp from an Internet site, type either:
   When you are asked for your login, type:
   Enter password as queried (your password is your actual userid:
   yourlogin at yourhost.whatever.whatever - be sure to include the "@")
cd /pub/harnad/BBS
   To show the available files, type:
   Next, retrieve the file you want with (for example):
get bbs.grodzinsky
   When you have the file(s) you want, type:



(1) There have been some very important developments in the 
    area of Web archiving of scientific papers very recently.
    Please see:

American Scientist:
Chronicle of Higher Education:

(2) All authors in the biobehavioral and cognitive sciences are
    strongly encouraged to archive all their papers (on their
    Home-Servers as well as) on CogPrints:

    It is extremely simple to do so and will make all of our papers
    available to all of us everywhere at no cost to anyone.

(3) BBS has a new policy of accepting submissions electronically.

    Authors can specify whether they would like their submissions
    archived publicly during refereeing in the BBS under-refereeing
    Archive, or in a referees-only, non-public archive.

    Upon acceptance, preprints of final drafts are moved to the
    public BBS Archive:

(4) BBS has expanded its annual page quota and is now appearing
    bimonthly, so the service of Open Peer Commentary can now be be
    offered to more target articles. The BBS refereeing procedure is
    also going to be considerably faster with the new electronic
    submission and processing procedures. Authors are invited to submit
    papers to:

    Email:   bbs at



(5) Call for Book Nominations for BBS Multiple Book Review

    In the past, Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) journal had only
    been able to do 1-2 BBS multiple book treatments per year, because
    of our limited annual page quota. BBS's new expanded page quota
    will make it possible for us to increase the number of books we
    treat per year, so this is an excellent time for BBS Associates and
    biobehavioral/cognitive scientists in general to nominate books you
    would like to see accorded BBS multiple book review.

    (Authors may self-nominate, but books can only be selected on the
    basis of multiple nominations.) It would be very helpful if you
    indicated in what way a BBS Multiple Book Review of the book(s) you
    nominate would be useful to the field (and of course a rich list of
    potential reviewers would be the best evidence of its potential

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