Neural circuitry underlying sentence-level linguistic prosody

Yunxia Tong, Jackson Gandour, Thomas Talavage, Donald Wong, Mario Dzemidzic, Yisheng Xu, Xiaojian Li, Mark Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Scopus citations


This study investigates the neural substrates underlying the perception of two sentence-level prosodic phenomena in Mandarin Chinese: contrastive stress (initial vs. final emphasis position) and intonation (declarative vs. interrogative modality). In an fMRI experiment, Chinese and English listeners were asked to selectively attend to either stress or intonation in paired 3-word sentences, and make speeded-response discrimination judgments. Between-group comparisons revealed that the Chinese group exhibited significantly greater activity in the left supramarginal gyrus and posterior middle temporal gyrus relative to the English group for both tasks. These same two regions showed a leftward asymmetry in the stress task for the Chinese group only. For both language groups, rightward asymmetries were observed in the middle portion of the middle frontal gyrus across tasks. All task effects involved greater activity for the stress task as compared to intonation. A left-sided task effect was observed in the posterior middle temporal gyrus for the Chinese group only. Both language groups exhibited a task effect bilaterally in the intraparietal sulcus. These findings support the emerging view that speech prosody perception involves a dynamic interplay among widely distributed regions not only within a single hemisphere but also between the two hemispheres. This model of speech prosody processing emphasizes the role of right hemisphere regions for complex-sound analysis, whereas task-dependent regions in the left hemisphere predominate when language processing is required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-428
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Contrastive stress
  • Emphatic stress
  • Human auditory processing
  • Intonation
  • Language
  • Laterality
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Prosody
  • Speech perception
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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  • Cite this

    Tong, Y., Gandour, J., Talavage, T., Wong, D., Dzemidzic, M., Xu, Y., Li, X., & Lowe, M. (2005). Neural circuitry underlying sentence-level linguistic prosody. NeuroImage, 28(2), 417-428.