We used fMRI to examine the functional correlates of syntactical processing in the first (L1) and second (L2) languages of non-proficient, late bilinguals. Subjects either covertly read words or produced sentences from them. Syntactical production during sentence production activated regions including left inferior frontal (LIFG) gyrus and the supplementary motor area in both languages. Analyses performed on the LIFG activation identified on a subject-by-subject basis revealed greater activation in L2 compared to L1 during sentence production and during word reading, consistent with previous work suggesting that greater cognitive effort may be subserved by less well-tuned neural representations that require greater neuronal activity. Remarkably, there was a greater separation in the LIFG activations in L1 versus L2 in less compared to more proficient bilinguals during syntax production, suggesting a functional reorganisation of regions involved in syntactical production as a function of syntactical proficiency. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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