Human languages contain extremely complex and fine-tuned structures. Yet under normal circumstances, babies learn to speak within a short time period, and without explicit instruction on the rules of their language.  Researchers at CINN study this and other mysteries to do with language. For instance, what happens to language processing in the brain when it breaks down after a brain injury or a stroke?  Our research not only contributes to improving methods in language and communication rehabilitation, but it also furthers our understanding of how the brain handles complex systems in general.

Our research also looks at how the complex system of rules that govern language, also known as grammar, are represented in the brains of children, adolescents and adults. How do very complex sentences affect how the brain operates? Are our brains hardwired for the learning of language and the processing of linguistic rules? How does the brain react to ungrammaticality in various aspects of language, for example, to words that are unexpected or nonsensical, to sounds that are perceived as foreign and to grammatical mistakes of various kinds? How does the brain make sense of a string of sounds, letters, words and how does the brain manage the production of similar strings? In other words, how is written or oral communication achieved, and what is the brain basis of it?

Other research looks at how the brain manages to tackle the hard problem of using two or more languages as is the case in various bilingual populations. What happens to the brain when additional languages are acquired and processed? Is the function and the architecture of the brain affected by the demanding task of suppressing the non-target language(s) at any given time? Also, are different aspects (grammar, meaning, phonology) of additional languages acquired and processed differently? How does the age of acquisition and the amount of usage of additional languages affect how the brain responds to language learning? Crucially, because our work is also behavioural, we seek to understand how bringing together behavioural and neurological methodologies can provide clearer answers to questions pertaining to language acquisition, language processing, the links between language and cognition and language and neuroplasticity.