Where language is located in the brain

Where language is located in the brain

First of all, we must know that language is the result of an order given by the brain to the organs that allow us to express ourselves. And the order to speak is the result of several decisions made by the brain at several different levels and in several different places.

We distinguish between primary sensory areas that allow the brain to understand information coming from the outside and primary motor areas that aim to coordinate actions. They represent only 10% of the total cerebral cortex, the remaining 90% are made up of other systems called the associative cortex. The cortex is the so-called "superficial" area of the brain that contains the grey matter formed by the neurons.


It is impossible to say with certainty that there is a given area for language, memory, emotions, etc., but it is impossible to say for sure. However, thanks to patients with language lesions and disorders we have been able to observe symptoms lodged in certain regions of the brain, which helped us to identify 5 different networks.

Perisylvian which allows language
Front parietto that allows to recognize the space
Occipitotemporal which allows recognition of objects and faces
Limbic, constituting memory and emotion
Prefrontal for attention and behaviours

The language would therefore be located in the Perisylvian zone, which is at the temple of the left hemisphere. This is also where Broca's area is located, that may tell you something, it's the area where representations of words are translated into articulations of words. There is also Wernick's area where the nervous flows that cause sensations are transformed into linguistic representations.

More explicitly, Broca's area is located at the back of the frontal lobe, near the part of the brain that controls the movements of the tongue and jaw. It is used to produce and articulate words. The Wernicke's area, on the other hand, consists of the perception of words and language symbols and the processing of the words heard.

These areas are connected by a bundle of nerve fibres known as the "arched bundle", which forms a vital circuit for language comprehension and speech production. The basal temporal language area or "Brodmann's area 19, 37 and 20" would also reflect our ability to organize the world into distinct categories.


Brain imaging has been able to identify certain specializations, with words denoting visually defined objects activating areas of the lower temporal pathway of object recognition, while words denoting actions activate more temporal and frontal areas related to the representation of the action.

Research on the links between different areas such as the lateral fusiform gyrus and the posterior superior temporal groove has shown that the visual and motor properties of objects are related to their implementation by human action. In this way a lexical task of any kind can solicit all the networks with greater or lesser intensity depending on its nature.


They are very complex, they are not only based on these areas, but they would be the result of different actions between several areas of the brain whose precise location is not known despite the progress of modern medicine.

The "areas of language" are organised in complex interconnected networks, the so-called "aphasic" symptoms are only exceptionally the result of an attack on a single cortical area specialised for a certain function but rather of a general disruption of the network formed by a set of interconnected regions.

This raises the question of whether it is better to study brain-language relations during the acute period of lesions or in their chronic phase. Aphasic syndromes are often caused by neuronal rearrangements several weeks after the injury.

In addition, individual factors such as gender, age, manual laterality or literacy level have an impact on the language network and may therefore influence aphasic symptoms.


Written language is a way of representing language, it is impossible to imagine that brain regions and structures are innately intended for this function. Brain regions have specialized for this function through structured and prolonged learning. Although functional imaging has identified a network of brain areas involved in reading and research into the origins of memory has shown a network of connected regions housed in the left hemisphere.


Due to their complexity, studies on sentences are less numerous than studies on the lexical and phonological level. However, there is still a lot of work on syntactic processes.

Those of Caplan & al. for example have confirmed the specific role of Broca's area for syntactic information processing by showing focused activation during complex sentence verification tasks. Another study integrates the conditions of syntactic comprehension and production showing that the same areas show adaptation phenomena according to stimulus repetition.

It is the multiplication of brain imaging studies and their comparisons in analyses that make it possible to advance science and to highlight elements of stability in the anatomy of language between individuals. However, although there is some proven stability, there is also a great deal of variability between subjects.

Recent methods allow a more complete and precise approach because they take into account all the functional interactions in the cerebral networks of language. These networks are thus made up of central nodes whose lesion observed in the clinic reveals the crucial nature of this language function.

Even if the scientific field has progressed a lot in recent years, it is still complex, just like the human body and all the capacities we have. It is essential to understand how our nervous system works, but it is very delicate and difficult to carry out experiments.

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Written by: Lisa Lambert, Staff Writer


Learning Languages