The boundaries of language and thought in deductive inference

Martin M. Monti, Lawrence M. Parsons, Daniel N. Osherson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Is human thought fully embedded in language, or do some forms of thought operate independently? To directly address this issue, we focus on inference-making, a central feature of human cognition. In a 3T fMRI study we compare logical inferences relying on sentential connectives (e.g., not, or, if . . . then) to linguistic inferences based on syntactic transformation of sentences involving ditransitive verbs (e.g., give, say, take). When contrasted with matched grammaticality judgments, logic inference alone recruited "core" regions of deduction [Brodmann area (BA) 10p and 8m], whereas linguistic inference alone recruited perisylvian regions of linguistic competence, among others (BA 21, 22, 37, 39, 44, and 45 and caudate). In addition, the two inferences commonly recruited a set of general "support" areas in frontoparietal cortex (BA 6, 7, 8, 40, and 47). The results indicate that logical inference is not embedded in natural language and confirm the relative modularity of linguistic processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12554-12559
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number30
StatePublished - Jul 28 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Logic
  • Reasoning
  • Semantics
  • Syntax
  • fMRI


Dive into the research topics of 'The boundaries of language and thought in deductive inference'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this