It is quite interesting to note that while on the surface there is apparently no inherent association between neuroscience and linguistics the fact is that there is actually a strong link between the two sciences based on the way in which the structure of the brain and its processes influence the way in which language is learned and developed.
For example, studies such as those by Snadhu (1993) state that by examining various aspects of the brain the structure of how linguistic knowledge and how it develops can be revealed (Snadhu, 1993).
On the other end of the spectrum it is noted by studies such as those by Hagiwara (1999) that the study of languages can actually be utilized as a means of assessing the way in which computation occurs in the brain due to evidence relating the evolutionary development of language with concurrent changes in the human brain as well (Hagiwara, 1999).
In fact based on the neurolinguistic approach which combines elements of neurobiology and linguistics it was seen that there were inherent methodological similarities between the two sciences in that both acknowledge the fact that certain parts of the brain are in fact responsible for the way in which speech develops.
As such, aspects related to theoretical linguistic research in which elemental concepts related to the “root” of particular languages or the combination of head and hand movements to particular linguistic expressions and methods of communication have in fact a biological measure from which they can be compared against.
It must be noted though that in cases of neurolinguistic research it is often seen that data generated utilizing methods such as the EEG, MEG, PET or fMRI often shows that biological evidence (i.e. neuroscience) is often better in explaining particular tests and results as compared to linguistic theory and research (Caplan, 2009).
From another perspective it can be seen that methodological elements of neuroscience has indeed greatly progressed the study of linguistic due to various studies showing evidence of concurrent brain activation of certain areas of the mind during speech which are associated with particular linguistic domains.
This has resulted in considerable progress in determining what parts of the brain enable language development and how this particular method of development and acquisition grows as a person ages from infancy to adulthood (Caplan, 2009).
Structural Elements and Similarity
In relation to what has brought the biggest advancements in both fields is the identification of structural elements of the brain which coincide with the development of language in humans. What this entails is that all languages, ranging from English, German, Chinese to Filipino, all have an inherently similar structural make up in the way in which particular ideas, concepts and means of communication are expressed.
This underlying similarity had puzzled linguists for years until it was identified that it was the way in which the brain developed to think in a particular way that the methods of communication devised by humanity began to develop in this way as well.
Of particular interest is the way in which linguistics can help neuroscientists identify when particular divergences occurred in the way in which particular races, cultures and ethnicities started to interpret information differently as a direct result of their language development.
In fact it is seen in studies such as those by Abrams (2004) that there are actually minor differences in thinking that are apparent in particular individuals which come as a direct result of the language they utilize (Abrams, 2004).
In this particular case what is currently being investigated is whether language acquisition plays a part in the way in which the brain develops in a particular way or if through the acquisition of a language by previous generations an individual’s brain adapted to think in this particular fashion as a direct result of the influences of the language over a period of time and across generations.
Abrams, F. (2004). Learning? It’s all in the mind. Times Educational Supplement, (4584), 8.
Caplan, D. N. (2009). Neurolinguistics: An introduction to spoken language processing and its disorders. Language, 85(3), 724.
Hagiwara, H. (1999). Neurolinguistic evidence for rule-based nominal suffixation. Language, 75(4), 739.
Sandhu, D. R. (1993). Cross-Cultural Counseling and Neurolinguistic Mirroring With Native American Adolescents. Journal Of Multicultural Counseling & Development, 21(2), 106.