Hagoort, P., Baggio, G., & Willems, R. M.
Semantic unification. In M. S. Gazzaniga (Ed.
), The cognitive neurosciences, 4th ed.
(pp. 819-836). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Language and communication are about the exchange of meaning. A key feature of understanding and producing language is the construction of complex meaning from more elementary semantic building blocks. The functional characteristics of this semantic unification process are revealed by studies using event related brain potentials. These studies have found that word meaning is assembled into compound meaning in not more than 500 ms. World knowledge, information about the speaker, co-occurring visual input and discourse all have an immediate impact on semantic unification, and trigger similar electrophysiological responses as sentence-internal semantic information. Neuroimaging studies show that a network of brain areas, including the left inferior frontal gyrus, the left superior/middle temporal cortex, the left inferior parietal cortex and, to a lesser extent their right hemisphere homologues are recruited to perform semantic unification.