World-renowned linguist, psychologist looks at how brain comprehends language Nov. 13-14
One of the world’s leading experts on how the brain comprehends, produces and acquires language—Yosef Grodzinsky—is visiting Syracuse University this week. On Nov. 13-14, the Israeli-born professor will serve as the Andrew W. Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor Distinguished Visitor in Linguistics. Grodzinsky will deliver a colloquium lecture titled “Brain Maps for Syntax and Semantics,” as well as two specialized talks.
Events are free and open to the public. For more information, call the SU Humanities Center at (315) 443-7192.
Also, Grodzinky will meet with SU students and faculty members on a personal basis. To request an appointment, e-mail Jaklin Kornfilt at Kornfilt@syr.edu.
“Professor Grodzinsky’s research into brain and behavior relations is truly extraordinary. Anyone with an interest in linguistics, psychology and neuroscience will marvel at the extent of his empirical research and the manner by which it has been shaped by new technologies,” says Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, who also directs the SU Humanities Center and Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor.
Grodzinsky’s colloquium lecture will be Friday, Nov. 13, at 2:30 p.m. in Room 107 of the Hall of Languages. Kornfilt, professor of linguistics in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences, says Grodzinsky’s presentation will cover some of the consequences of recent transformations in neurolinguistics. “We now have at our disposal fancy imaging technologies, as well as sophisticated analytical tools to imagine a precise anatomical map of human linguistic ability,” she says, adding that Grodzinsky will pull evidence from healthy and diseased case studies. “He will talk about the many implications of such progress.”
A reception will follow at 4:45 p.m. in room 340 of the H.B. Crouse Building.
On Saturday, Nov. 14, Grodzinsky will deliver two talks in Room 214 of the Hall of Languages. At 10 a.m., he will present “The Blessing of Variation: Syntactic Deficits in Aphasia.” Kornfilt says the growing use of imaging technology in psychological research has created new ways, or variations, of treating patients with aphasia (a language impairment resulting from brain damage). “Variability is a major obstacle to almost any effort to understand how language is represented in the brain,” she says. “Professor Grodzinsky will look at four types of variation found in the language domain—anatomical, behavioral, cross-linguistic and cross-methodoogical—and will give an example or two of each. People will be surprised to learn that once the correct statistical and linguistic tools are applied, variations in aphasia data go away.”
Grodzinsky will give another talk at 2 p.m. titled “A Brain Map for Syntax: Parametric fMRI Experiments in Health.” Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or fMRI, is a type of minimally invasive neuroimagining that measures changes in blood flow in the nervous system. Kornfilt says Grodzinsky will look at why fMRI experiments are carried out and how they impact our understanding of the syntactic homunculus—“the little area in our head that helps us speak and understand language the way we do,” she calls it.
Grodzinky is professor and Canada Research Chair of linguistics at McGill University in Montreal. He also holds dual appointments in psychology at Boston University and Tel Aviv University in Israel. His areas of expertise include neurolinguistics, syntax, comparative aphasiology and functional neuroimaging. He has published dozens of articles and essays, and has co-edited “Broca’s Region” (Oxford University Press, 2006), named for the 19th-century French scientist Paul Broca, who discovered how cognitive functions are localized to certain parts of the cerebral cortex.