A neuroimaging study of semantic representation in first and second languages

Xian Zhang, Jing Yang, Ruiming Wang, Ping Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to extend the embodied cognition account of language processing to second language (L2). Twenty L2 English speakers and ten native (L1) English speakers were asked to judge the semantic relatedness of English words. Behavioural data showed that L1 speakers performed the task more quickly and accurately as compared to L2 English speakers. Neurocognitive data indicated that L2 action word processing induced greater brain activation than object word processing in key language regions. In addition, although both L1 and L2 processing recruited a large brain network, significant differences were observed: L1 processing of nouns and verbs engaged a more integrated brain network connecting key language areas with sensorimotor and semantic integration nodes; for L2 processing, the connections between the semantic integration hub and sensorimotor regions were not strongly engaged. The present study sheds light on the neurocognitive representation of L2 embodied semantics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1238
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number10
Early online date9 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • First language
  • brain networks
  • embodied cognition
  • nouns and verbs
  • second language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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