Role of the Right Hemisphere in Language Functioning

1. Redundant Role

It is generally acknowledged that the left hemisphere (LH) is the dominant hemisphere for language. Thus, when one talks about greater RH participation in language in bilinguals, it is important to specify what exactly one is hypothesizing because there are at least two senses in which the RH could be said to be more involved in language in bilinguals. The RH could serve as a redundant, additional processor of language available for bilinguals but the LH might still be the predominant hemisphere for language, even in bilin-guals. In this view, damage to the RH should not be expected to have differential consequences for bilin-guals and monolinguals since the LH would still be intact.

2. Complementary Role

If the RH is instead viewed as being complementary to the LH, mediating functions essential to language processing but that constitute affective and/or pragmatic (rather than phonological or syntactic aspects of language, which may be subserved by the LH), then one would expect that right-sided damage could indeed result in certain kinds of linguistic deficits (i.e., those involving pragmatic or affective components). To the extent that bilinguals rely more than monolinguals on these components in language processing, one would expect bilinguals to be more disrupted than monolinguals by right-sided damage. In this view, it would make sense to compare the relative incidence of aphasia following lesions to the RH in bilinguals and monolinguals. Most research has tended to adopt this latter position in searching for a differential incidence of crossed aphasia in bilinguals and monolinguals.

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