Neural basis for processing hidden complexity indexed by small and finite clauses in Mandarin Chinese

Umberto Ansaldo (Corresponding Author), Jackie Lai, Fanlu Jia, Wai Ting Siok, Li Hai Tan, Stephen Matthews

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In this study we investigate how the human brain processes small clauses and finite clauses. Small clauses are instances of 'simpler' syntax in the sense that they do not involve operations such as Move and Tense, and have been argued to represent an earlier stage of syntactic evolution before the development of fully-fledged syntax (Bickerton, 1990; Jackendoff 2010; Uriagereka, 2008). Understanding how the brain processes instances of different levels of syntactic complexity may further our understanding of (i) the analytical functions of specific brain regions, and (ii) the distribution of labor in the interpretation or different levels of syntax. To pursue this hypothesis, we ask whether small clauses require different analytical processes than regular syntax. This report provides evidence that they do. In an fMRI study of syntactic processing in a group of Mandarin speakers, small clauses showed greater activation of areas involved in semantic processing. In addition, both small and finite clauses showed substantial activation of areas implicated in syntactic and semantic processing, including significant RH activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-127
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Early online date11 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Language processing
  • Mandarin chinese
  • Semantics
  • Syntax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Neural basis for processing hidden complexity indexed by small and finite clauses in Mandarin Chinese'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this