The Organization of Language and the Brain

Language Disorders after Brain Damage Help in Elucidating the Neutral Basis of Verbal Behavior 1970
  • Norman Geschwind
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 16)


The study of the organization of the brain for language has been based of necessity on investigations in man. The bulk of our information in this area has come from careful studies of patients suffering from isolated damage as a result of vascular disease, whose brains have, after death, been subjected to careful anatomical examination. Disorders of language resulting from brain damage, almost always on the left side, are called aphasias. Carl Wernicke, nearly 100 years ago. described the linguistic differences between aphasias resulting from damage in different anatomical locations and outlined a theory of the organization of language in the brain. Not only have Wernicke’s localizations stood up under repeated examinations but his theory has been the only one which has permitted the prediction of new phenomena, or has been able to account for new observations. Several remarkable disorders, such as isolated disturbances of reading and the symptomatology of the corpus callosum, are examples of the explanatory power of this theory.

The phenomenon of cerebral dominance — that is, the predominant importance of one side of the brain for a class of learned behavior — occurs, as far as we know, in no mammal other than man. The dominance of the left side of the brain for speech is the most striking example of this phenomenon. Contrary to generally accepted views, there is a striking anatomical asymmetry between the temporal speech region on the left side and the corresponding region of the right hemisphere.


Corpus Callosum Left Hemisphere Hippocampal Region Speech Region Cerebral Dominance 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norman Geschwind
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard Medical SchoolUSA

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