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How the brain processes violations of the grammatical norm: An fMRI study

Hubers, F., Snijders, T. M., & De Hoop, H. (2016). How the brain processes violations of the grammatical norm: An fMRI study. Brain and Language, 163, 22-31. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2016.08.006.
Native speakers of Dutch do not always adhere to prescriptive grammar rules in their daily speech. These grammatical norm violations can elicit emotional reactions in language purists, mostly high-educated people, who claim that for them these constructions are truly ungrammatical. However, linguists generally assume that grammatical norm violations are in fact truly grammatical, especially when they occur frequently in a language. In an fMRI study we investigated the processing of grammatical norm violations in the brains of language purists, and compared them with truly grammatical and truly ungrammatical sentences. Grammatical norm violations were found to be unique in that their processing resembled not only the processing of truly grammatical sentences (in left medial Superior Frontal Gyrus and Angular Gyrus), but also that of truly ungrammatical sentences (in Inferior Frontal Gyrus), despite what theories of grammar would usually lead us to believe
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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