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Poster A59, Wednesday, November 8, 10:30 – 11:45 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Lateralization differences on semantic processing between native speakers and proficient learners of Mandarin Chinese

Chia-Ho Lai1, Shu-Kai Hsieh1, Chia-Lin Lee1, I-Wen Su1, Te-Hsin Liu1, Chia-Rung Lu1, I-Ni Tsai1, Tai-Li Chou1;1National Taiwan University

Mandarin Chinese is one of the language systems featured by orthographic characters. For alphabetic-based Indo-European language speakers, learning Mandarin Chinese as second language may take more efforts on processing orthographic information in order to achieve meaning comprehension. However, the neural changes or plasticity of brain lateralization in adult Chinese learners are not well understood. The present study aimed at exploring the hemispheric differences between native speakers (L1 group, N = 21, age = 24.5 years old, SD = 2.9) and proficient learners (L2 group, N = 10, age = 25.8 years old, SD = 3.8) of Mandarin Chinese on semantic processing of characters by using functional magnetic resonance imaging. In the scanner, participants were asked to make different relation judgments of Chinese character pairs corresponding to two conditions. One was to indicate whether the pairs were related in meaning, while the other was to identify whether the pairs were in the same orthographic form. Our results showed that, compared to orthographic form identification, semantic-related pairs had greater activation in the left hemisphere including the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), middle temporal gyrus (MTG), superior frontal gyrus and caudate nucleus in the L1 group. While in the L2 group, the same comparison showed relatively weaker activation in the left IFG and greater activation in the right middle occipital gyrus. We further compared the semantically related pairs and semantically unrelated pairs of Chinese characters. The L1 group had more activation in the left-dominant regions including the inferior parietal lobule, superior frontal gyrus, MTG, IFG and caudate nucleus. In contrast, the L2 group showed bilateral activation in both angular gyrus and MTG. Previous findings in the literature have shown that after participating in the training of phonological learning of Chinese characters, English native speakers not only showed the activation in the left IFG but also had increased activation in the occipital regions related to visual processing in the right hemisphere. Furthermore, a recent study demonstrated that successful Chinese learners among the English native speakers tended to have stronger enhancement of white-matter connectivity in the right hemisphere. Therefore, our study indicated that for Chinese learners whose language systems are alphabetic-based, the right hemisphere has contributions to semantic processing which might due to the visual-spatial information loadings in understanding of Chinese characters or the recruitment of cognitive resources in processing second language which is genuinely different from their mother tongues.

Topic Area: Multilingualism

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