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Resolving Semantic Ambiguities in Sentences: Cognitive Processes and Brain Mechanisms

Vitello, S; Rodd, JM; (2015) Resolving Semantic Ambiguities in Sentences: Cognitive Processes and Brain Mechanisms. Linguistics and Language Compass , 9 (10) pp. 391-405. 10.1111/lnc3.12160. Green open access

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Abstract

fMRI studies of how the brain processes sentences containing semantically ambiguous words have consistently implicated (i) the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and (ii) posterior regions of the left temporal lobe in processing high-ambiguity sentences. This article reviews recent findings on this topic and relates them to (i) psycholinguistic theories about the underlying cognitive processes and (ii) general neuro-cognitive accounts of the relevant brain regions. We suggest that the LIFG plays a general role in the cognitive control process that are necessary to select contextually relevant meanings and to reinterpret sentences that were initially misunderstood, but it is currently unclear whether these control processes should best be characterised in terms of specific processes such as conflict resolution and controlled retrieval that are required for high-ambiguity sentences, or whether its function is better characterised in terms of a more general set of ‘unification’ processes. In contrast to the relatively rapid progress that has been made in understanding the function of the LIFG, we suggest that the contribution of the posterior temporal lobe is less well understood and future work is needed to clarify its role in sentence comprehension.

Type: Article
Title: Resolving Semantic Ambiguities in Sentences: Cognitive Processes and Brain Mechanisms
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/lnc3.12160
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1111/lnc3.12160
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1497711
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