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Publication Detail
Phonological processing in deaf signers and the impact of age of first language acquisition
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Macsweeney M, Waters D, Brammer MJ, Woll B, Goswami U
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
  • Print ISSN:
  • Addresses:
    Behavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, UCL Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK; Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre, Department of Human Communication Science, University College London, London WC1H 0PD, UK
  • Notes:
    DA - 20080219IS - 1053-8119 (Print)LA - ENGPT - JOURNAL ARTICLE
Just as words can rhyme, the signs of a signed language can share structural properties, such as location. Linguistic description at this level is termed phonology. We report that a left-lateralised fronto-parietal network is engaged during phonological similarity judgements made in both English (rhyme) and British Sign Language (BSL; location). Since these languages operate in different modalities, these data suggest that the neural network supporting phonological processing is, to some extent, supramodal. Activation within this network was however modulated by language (BSL/English), hearing status (deaf/hearing), and age of BSL acquisition (native/non-native). The influence of language and hearing status suggests an important role for the posterior portion of the left inferior frontal gyrus in speech-based phonological processing in deaf people. This, we suggest, is due to increased reliance on the articulatory component of speech when the auditory component is absent. With regard to age of first language acquisition, non-native signers activated the left inferior frontal gyrus more than native signers during the BSL task, and also during the task performed in English, which both groups acquired late. This is the first neuroimaging demonstration that age of first language acquisition has implications not only for the neural systems supporting the first language, but also for networks supporting languages learned subsequently
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