Complex number words (e.g., "twenty two") are formed by merging together several simple number words (e.g., "twenty" and "two"). In the present study, we explored the neural correlates of this operation and investigated to what extent it engages brain areas involved processing numerical quantity and linguistic syntactic structure. Participants speaking two typologically distinct languages, French and Chinese, were required to read aloud sequences of simple number words while their cerebral activity was recorded by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Each number word could either be merged with the previous ones (e.g., 'twenty three') or not (e.g., 'three twenty'), thus forming four levels ranging from lists of number words to complex numerals. When a number word could be merged with the preceding ones, it was named faster than when it could not. Neuroimaging results showed that the number of merges correlated with activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus and in the left inferior parietal lobule. Consistent findings across Chinese and French participants suggest that these regions serve as the neural bases for forming complex number words in different languages.
- Cross-cultural invariance
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging
- Linguistic syntax
- Number word
- Structure building