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Colloquium 12 (4th December, 10AM): Songhee Kim (Medical College of Wisconsin)

Neural underpinnings of basic combinatorial semantics: evidence from MEG

The twelfth colloquium held at the Department of Linguistics, SNU in Fall 2020 is “Neural underpinnings of basic combinatorial semantics: evidence from MEG” by Songhee Kim.

The speaker currently works at Medical College of Wisconsin, USA. She acquired her PhD in Linguistics from New York University in 2019.


One of the fundamental questions in the neurobiology of language is how our brain composes a complex meaning out of simpler building blocks. With non-invasive neuroimaging methods at our disposal, the understanding of the neural underpinnings of semantic composition has been greatly expanded in the last decade, with overall results pointing to the left anterior temporal lobe (LATL) as a locus of basic combinatorial semantics. Most of these results, however, have focused on the composition of object concepts (i.e., noun phrases), leaving the event concept composition relatively less understood.

In this talk, I briefly review recent findings on the neural correlates of semantic composition, mainly focusing on evidence from MEG (Magnetoencephalography). Then I present two MEG studies exploring the neural correlates of semantic composition in the event domain. The first study will demonstrate the engagement of the LATL in adverb-verb composition, with its overall pattern being parallel to what has been observed in the adjectival modification. The second study continues to explore the nature of semantic composition happening in the LATL, by taking a deeper look into the adverbial modification in an extended environment, i.e., a sentence. In sum, this talk will portray a more detailed picture of how event concept composition recruits the brain, especially the LATL.

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