Hemispheric specialization for semantic and syntactic components of language in simultaneous interpreters

Franco Fabbro, Bruno Gran, Laura Gran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hemispheric specializations for semantic and syntactic components in Italian (L1) and English (L2) were studied with a dichotic listening test, simulating simultaneous interpretation tasks in 24 right-handed female interpretation students at the Scuola Superiore di Lingue Moderne per Interpreti e Traduttori (SSLM) of the University of Trieste and in 12 right-handed female professional interpreters at the European Communities (EEC). The test involved the recognition of correct translations, translations with semantic errors, and translations with syntactic errors from L1 to L2 and vice versa. As an overall result, both students and interpreters gave significantly more correct answers when sentences in L2 as the target language were sent to the left ear. Students recognized significantly more sentences containing syntactic errors than did professional interpreters, while professional interpreters recognized significantly more sentences with semantic errors than did interpreting students. In regard to hemispheric specialization in interpreting students, no significant asymmetries were revealed in the recognition of semantic and syntactic errors. Professional interpreters showed a significant right-ear superiority in recognizing semantic errors in L1 and a significant left-ear superiority in recognizing semantic errors in L2. In the recognition of syntactic errors, professional interpreters showed significant left-ear superiority for L1 and significant right-ear superiority for L2. The prolonged practice in simultaneous interpreting strategies in EEC professional interpreters may account for some of their peculiar hemispheric specializations for languages revealed by this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-42
Number of pages42
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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