Back Past events: Lars Meyer. Slow rhythms of language comprehension from inside out?

Lars Meyer. Slow rhythms of language comprehension from inside out?

- BCBL auditorium (and BCBL zoom room 2)

What: Slow rhythms of language comprehension from inside out ?

Where:  BCBL auditorium and BCBL zoom room 2. (If you would like to attend to this meeting reserve at

Who: Lars Meyer, PhD, Research Group Leader, MPRG Language Cycles, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany &

Clinic for Phoniatrics and Pedaudiology, University Hospital Münster, DE

When:  Friday, October 28th, 2:30 PM

It is often proposed that periodic electrophysiological activity—so-called neural oscillations—serves auditory and linguistic processing. Oscillatory cycles are thought to provide processing time windows for various acoustic units (e.g., phonemes, syllables) and abstract linguistic units (e.g., multi-word chunks). Most work has studied such functions in response to speech, that is, driven by acoustic or abstract cues available from the stimulus. In this presentation, I am inverting this perspective, claiming that oscillations may also constrain linguistic processing—and language as such—from the inside out. In the first part of the presentation, I discuss a series of electroencephalography experiments on syntactic ambiguities. Here, we found that the formation of multi-word chunks depends on the phase of slow-frequency oscillations, irrespective of the availability of acoustic markings to chunk termination. These results are backed by preliminary results from artificial grammar learning, where we find the formation of periodic chunks to constrain the processing of non-adjacent dependencies. In the second part of the presentation, I will suggest that the periodicity of electrophysiology as an electrophysiological bottleneck may also be reflected in linguistic corpora and even in eye movements during reading: First, we found that speech prosody is periodic at a frequency that matches the frequency of those neural oscillations that relate to prosody processing. Second, we observed that eye movements during reading display periodic slowdowns that coincide with the endings of multi-word chunks. I sum, our results support the simplistic claim that the duration of neural oscillatory cycles is an electrophysiological constraint that associates with periodicity of both linguistic behavior and language as a cultural system.