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Embodied language in first- and second-language speakers: Neural correlates of processing motor verbs

De Grauwe, S., Willems, R. M., Rüschemeyer, S.-A., Lemhöfer, K., & Schriefers, H. (2014). Embodied language in first- and second-language speakers: Neural correlates of processing motor verbs. Neuropsychologia, 56, 334-349. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.02.003.
The involvement of neural motor and sensory systems in the processing of language has so far mainly been studied in native (L1) speakers. In an fMRI experiment, we investigated whether non-native (L2) semantic representations are rich enough to allow for activation in motor and somatosensory brain areas. German learners of Dutch and a control group of Dutch native speakers made lexical decisions about visually presented Dutch motor and non-motor verbs. Region-of-interest (ROI) and whole-brain analyses indicated that L2 speakers, like L1 speakers, showed significantly increased activation for simple motor compared to non-motor verbs in motor and somatosensory regions. This effect was not restricted to Dutch-German cognate verbs, but was also present for non-cognate verbs. These results indicate that L2 semantic representations are rich enough for motor-related activations to develop in motor and somatosensory areas.
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