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Form and content: dissociating syntax and semantics in sentence comprehension.

The distinction between syntax (sentence form) and semantics (sentence meaning) is fundamental to our thinking about language. Whether and where this distinction is represented at the neural level is still a matter of considerable debate. In the present fMRI study, we examined the neural correlates of syntactic and semantic functions using an innovative activation paradigm specifically designed to unequivocally disentangle syntactic from lexicosemantic aspects of sentence processing. Our findings strongly indicate that a part of Broca's area (BA 44, pars opercularis) is critically implicated in processing syntactic information, whereas the lower portion of the left inferior frontal gyrus (BA 47, pars orbitalis) is selectively involved in processing the semantic aspects of a sentence.

Pubmed ID: 10571235


  • Dapretto M
  • Bookheimer SY



Publication Data

October 6, 1999

Associated Grants


Mesh Terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior
  • Brain
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Language Arts
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Semantics
  • Speech Perception