What Side of the Brain Controls Speech?

The Orchestra Behind Talking


Discovering what side of the brain controls speech is more complicated than it seems. For a long time experts have pointed to the left side of the brain as the center for speech. But for a true understanding of where speech comes from we need a deeper look at the questions. Since there are so many steps involved in meaningful vocal communication, it all depends which step we consider central, if any. Having said that let's start taking the process of speech apart.

Creating Speech

The left brain does contain many areas that are vital to the processing and formation of speech. The left part of the temporal lobe, for example, helps children acquire language. It makes the correlation between sounds heard and things seen or otherwise experienced. The left brain seems to be what side of the brain controls speech in 96% of children.

There are creative areas in the brain that put concepts and experiences in different orders to think up new ways to say things. What side of the brain controls speech is not so obvious in this case. Creative thinking is generally thought to be in the right side of the brain, but not in this case.

Oral language is spoken first in the mind. This happens especially when you rehearse a speech, or think in words about something. If we are talking about what side of the brain controls speech thought formation, this is it. The left frontal lobe, the area above the left eyebrow is responsible for this internal speech.

The acuity or responsiveness of this area of the brain determines if you will think of things to say quickly, or you will search for words. It will help you make deep conversations that are more intellectual than 'how is the weather?' This kind of higher order thinking will be easier for you, you are more apt to discuss the meaning of life and not just what color of tie you have on. So, what side of the brain controls speech meanings? It is basically the left side of the frontal lobe.

Understanding What You've Said

However, the right side is involved in interpreting and generating speech with meanings. In one study with people who had injured right brains (meaning that the left brain was doing most of the work), it was shown that because of the damage, the right brain did effect language. If a person like this was told 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,' they would only understand that it had something to do with birds. They would not be able to understand the complex concept of the saying.

This is because, while the left brain is good at exact and precise thought processes, the right brain is more adept at making broad and sweeping understandings. The right brain can also decipher meaning by 'the way you said it,' and the emphasis, and it gets jokes. If you want to know what side of the brain controls speech understanding, it is both.

Making The Sounds

The pre-motor area of the left brain deals with concepts like grammar. This is basically putting words in an intelligible order. For example, knowing the difference between 'the clerk pays the customer' and 'the customer pays the clerk' is basic grammar. The motor area of the brain is where it all turns into action. This area, on the left side, contains a speech center which turns all these thought process into muscle movements. The movements are complex. So if we are talking about what side of the brain controls the actual speech movements that generate the sounds, it is the speech center in the motor area which is in the left hemisphere of the brain.

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