The interplay of composition and concept specificity in the left anterior temporal lobe

An MEG study

Linmin Zhang, Liina Pylkkänen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    A fundamental function of natural language is to focus the interlocutor's attention to specific entities and circumstances from the vast set of possibilities in the environment. In other words, as an utterance progresses, the narrower its reference typically becomes. Intriguingly, there is substantial convergence in the neural localization of conceptual specificity effects at the single word level and combinatory effects at the phrasal level, both systematically affecting the left anterior temporal lobe (LATL). However, the relationship between these two types of effects is not well understood. The current study used MEG to characterize the temporal progression of both types of effects in minimal two-word phrases (e.g., tomato soup), where single word specificity was varied in both first and second position (e.g., tomato vs. vegetable; soup vs. dish). These combinatory phrases were further compared to non-combinatory single nouns of high and low specificity. Our most robust result was an effect of the specificity of the first word while processing the second word: responses to the second word were the largest when it was being composed with a more specific as opposed to a more general modifier. In the modifier position, specificity had no reliable effects, while non-combinatory single nouns did show a subtle LATL increase when specific. In all, our findings show that when non-semantic factors such as frequency are controlled for, conceptual specificity weakly modulates LATL activity in non-combinatory situations (i.e., at a single noun), but robustly affects the size of the LATL composition effect. Thus LATL activity appears to be most strongly driven by the composition of concepts as opposed to access to single concepts.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)228-240
    Number of pages13
    JournalNeuroImage
    Volume111
    DOIs
    StatePublished - May 1 2015

    Fingerprint

    Temporal Lobe
    Lycopersicon esculentum
    Word Processing
    Vegetables
    Language

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Neurology
    • Cognitive Neuroscience

    Cite this

    The interplay of composition and concept specificity in the left anterior temporal lobe : An MEG study. / Zhang, Linmin; Pylkkänen, Liina.

    In: NeuroImage, Vol. 111, 01.05.2015, p. 228-240.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    @article{c49695ed58084e9dbe8d758aaa7bf635,
    title = "The interplay of composition and concept specificity in the left anterior temporal lobe: An MEG study",
    abstract = "A fundamental function of natural language is to focus the interlocutor's attention to specific entities and circumstances from the vast set of possibilities in the environment. In other words, as an utterance progresses, the narrower its reference typically becomes. Intriguingly, there is substantial convergence in the neural localization of conceptual specificity effects at the single word level and combinatory effects at the phrasal level, both systematically affecting the left anterior temporal lobe (LATL). However, the relationship between these two types of effects is not well understood. The current study used MEG to characterize the temporal progression of both types of effects in minimal two-word phrases (e.g., tomato soup), where single word specificity was varied in both first and second position (e.g., tomato vs. vegetable; soup vs. dish). These combinatory phrases were further compared to non-combinatory single nouns of high and low specificity. Our most robust result was an effect of the specificity of the first word while processing the second word: responses to the second word were the largest when it was being composed with a more specific as opposed to a more general modifier. In the modifier position, specificity had no reliable effects, while non-combinatory single nouns did show a subtle LATL increase when specific. In all, our findings show that when non-semantic factors such as frequency are controlled for, conceptual specificity weakly modulates LATL activity in non-combinatory situations (i.e., at a single noun), but robustly affects the size of the LATL composition effect. Thus LATL activity appears to be most strongly driven by the composition of concepts as opposed to access to single concepts.",
    author = "Linmin Zhang and Liina Pylkk{\"a}nen",
    year = "2015",
    month = "5",
    day = "1",
    doi = "10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.02.028",
    language = "English (US)",
    volume = "111",
    pages = "228--240",
    journal = "NeuroImage",
    issn = "1053-8119",
    publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",

    }

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - The interplay of composition and concept specificity in the left anterior temporal lobe

    T2 - An MEG study

    AU - Zhang, Linmin

    AU - Pylkkänen, Liina

    PY - 2015/5/1

    Y1 - 2015/5/1

    N2 - A fundamental function of natural language is to focus the interlocutor's attention to specific entities and circumstances from the vast set of possibilities in the environment. In other words, as an utterance progresses, the narrower its reference typically becomes. Intriguingly, there is substantial convergence in the neural localization of conceptual specificity effects at the single word level and combinatory effects at the phrasal level, both systematically affecting the left anterior temporal lobe (LATL). However, the relationship between these two types of effects is not well understood. The current study used MEG to characterize the temporal progression of both types of effects in minimal two-word phrases (e.g., tomato soup), where single word specificity was varied in both first and second position (e.g., tomato vs. vegetable; soup vs. dish). These combinatory phrases were further compared to non-combinatory single nouns of high and low specificity. Our most robust result was an effect of the specificity of the first word while processing the second word: responses to the second word were the largest when it was being composed with a more specific as opposed to a more general modifier. In the modifier position, specificity had no reliable effects, while non-combinatory single nouns did show a subtle LATL increase when specific. In all, our findings show that when non-semantic factors such as frequency are controlled for, conceptual specificity weakly modulates LATL activity in non-combinatory situations (i.e., at a single noun), but robustly affects the size of the LATL composition effect. Thus LATL activity appears to be most strongly driven by the composition of concepts as opposed to access to single concepts.

    AB - A fundamental function of natural language is to focus the interlocutor's attention to specific entities and circumstances from the vast set of possibilities in the environment. In other words, as an utterance progresses, the narrower its reference typically becomes. Intriguingly, there is substantial convergence in the neural localization of conceptual specificity effects at the single word level and combinatory effects at the phrasal level, both systematically affecting the left anterior temporal lobe (LATL). However, the relationship between these two types of effects is not well understood. The current study used MEG to characterize the temporal progression of both types of effects in minimal two-word phrases (e.g., tomato soup), where single word specificity was varied in both first and second position (e.g., tomato vs. vegetable; soup vs. dish). These combinatory phrases were further compared to non-combinatory single nouns of high and low specificity. Our most robust result was an effect of the specificity of the first word while processing the second word: responses to the second word were the largest when it was being composed with a more specific as opposed to a more general modifier. In the modifier position, specificity had no reliable effects, while non-combinatory single nouns did show a subtle LATL increase when specific. In all, our findings show that when non-semantic factors such as frequency are controlled for, conceptual specificity weakly modulates LATL activity in non-combinatory situations (i.e., at a single noun), but robustly affects the size of the LATL composition effect. Thus LATL activity appears to be most strongly driven by the composition of concepts as opposed to access to single concepts.

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84923553424&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84923553424&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    U2 - 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.02.028

    DO - 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.02.028

    M3 - Article

    VL - 111

    SP - 228

    EP - 240

    JO - NeuroImage

    JF - NeuroImage

    SN - 1053-8119

    ER -