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First and Second Language Patterns of Brain Activation in Korean Layrngeal Contrasts

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Abstract. This study aims to localize the brain regions involved in the apprehension of Korean laryngeal contrasts and to investigate whether the Internal Model advanced by Callan et al. (2004) extends to first versus second language perception of these unique three-way laryngeal distinctions. The results show that there is a significant difference in activation between native and second-language speakers, consistent with the findings of Callan et al. Specific activities unique to younger native speakers of Korean relative to native speakers of English were seen in the cuneus (occipital lobe) and the right middle frontal gyrus (Brodmann Area [BA] 10), areas of the brain associated with pitch perception. The current findings uphold Silva's (2006) conclusion that the laryngeal contrasts of Korean are increasingly distinguished less by VOT differences than by their effect on pitch in the following vowel. A subsequent experiment was conducted to establish whether more traditional, older native speakers of Korean who still make clear VOT distinctions also activate both the cuneus and BA 10 in the same task. Preliminary results indicate that they do not, whereas speakers with overlapping VOT distinctions do show intersecting activations in these areas, thus corroborating Silva's claim of emergent pitch sensitivity in the Korean laryngeal system.
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Keywords: Internal Model; Korean laryngeal contrast; Second language acquisition; VOT; cuneus; pitch; superior temporal gyrus

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-01-01

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