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Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Cognitive Science

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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      Syntax is the cognitive capacity of human beings that allows us to connect linguistic meaning with linguistic form. The study of syntax is a huge field that has generated a great deal of empirical and theoretical work over the decades. This article outlines why understanding our syntactic capacity is important to cognitive science in general and why the data of syntactic research is to be taken seriously. It then provides an overview of a number of broad findings about the character of the syntax of human language, including evidence for abstract constituent structure, core properties of constituents, the importance of functional categories, the link between syntactic structure and meaning, and the range of types of syntactic dependencies, including dependencies of form, dependencies of position, and dependencies that create new meanings. WIREs Cogn Sci 2015, 6:131–147. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1332

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      The faculty of language: what is it, who has it, and how did it evolve?

      We argue that an understanding of the faculty of language requires substantial interdisciplinary cooperation. We suggest how current developments in linguistics can be profitably wedded to work in evolutionary biology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience. We submit that a distinction should be made between the faculty of language in the broad sense (FLB) and in the narrow sense (FLN). FLB includes a sensory-motor system, a conceptual-intentional system, and the computational mechanisms for recursion, providing the capacity to generate an infinite range of expressions from a finite set of elements. We hypothesize that FLN only includes recursion and is the only uniquely human component of the faculty of language. We further argue that FLN may have evolved for reasons other than language, hence comparative studies might look for evidence of such computations outside of the domain of communication (for example, number, navigation, and social relations).
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        The brain basis of language processing: from structure to function.

        Language processing is a trait of human species. The knowledge about its neurobiological basis has been increased considerably over the past decades. Different brain regions in the left and right hemisphere have been identified to support particular language functions. Networks involving the temporal cortex and the inferior frontal cortex with a clear left lateralization were shown to support syntactic processes, whereas less lateralized temporo-frontal networks subserve semantic processes. These networks have been substantiated both by functional as well as by structural connectivity data. Electrophysiological measures indicate that within these networks syntactic processes of local structure building precede the assignment of grammatical and semantic relations in a sentence. Suprasegmental prosodic information overtly available in the acoustic language input is processed predominantly in a temporo-frontal network in the right hemisphere associated with a clear electrophysiological marker. Studies with patients suffering from lesions in the corpus callosum reveal that the posterior portion of this structure plays a crucial role in the interaction of syntactic and prosodic information during language processing.
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          Syntactic persistence in language production


            Author and article information

            Queen Mary, University of London London, UK
            Author notes
            * Correspondence to: d.j.adger@
            Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci
            Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci
            Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Cognitive Science
            John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (Hoboken, USA )
            Mar-Apr 2015
            10 December 2014
            : 6
            : 2
            : 131-147
            © 2014 The Authors. WIREs Cognitive Science published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

            This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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