Reading Chinese Confirmed as Left Hemisphere Activity

A post by Victor Mair in Language Log today reported research from Taiwan that claims to have settled the controversy regarding the pictorial nature of Chinese writing – are the characters processed in the right hemisphere like other images? Brain scans showed left-hemisphere activity, like reading English, Spanish or Hebrew alphabets.

The report begins:

“Researchers have discovered that speakers of four highly contrasting languages — Spanish, English, Hebrew and Chinese — show very similar patterns of brain activity during reading and speech, which suggests the underlying network for language processing might be more universal than previously understood.”


“The finding debunks a myth that Chinese languages were predominantly processed by the right hemisphere, compared with alphabetic languages processed by the left hemisphere, because Chinese was considered a pictorial language and the right hemisphere has been associated with image processing.”

The Language Log post is here, along with links to the Taiwan report and other sources.

©Sidney Wood and SWPhonetics, 1994-2016


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