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date: 20 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

It is intriguing that the two brain halves of the human brain look so similar, but are in fact quite different at the anatomical level, and even more so at the functional level. In particular, the highly frequent co-occurrence of right-handedness and left hemisphere dominance of language has led to an abundance of laterality research. This chapter discusses the most important recent finding on laterality (i.e., left or right hemisphere) and degree of hemispheric specialization for speech production, auditory speech processing, and reading. Following a descriptive overview of these three core sub-processes of language, the chapter summarizes possible influences on the lateralization of each, including anatomical, evolutionary, genetic, developmental, and experiential factors, as well as handedness and impairment. It will become clear that language is a heterogeneous cognitive function driven by a variety of underpinning origins. Next, the often-underestimated role of the right hemisphere for language is discussed with respect to prosody and metaphor comprehension, as well as individual differences in the lateralization of healthy and language-impaired brains. Finally, recent insights into the relationship between lateralized language and non-language functions are discussed, highlighting the unique contribution of lateralization research to the growing knowledge of general human brain mechanisms.

Keywords: laterality, hemispheric dominance, brain, handedness, speech production, auditory speech processing, reading

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