The neural systems involved in hearing and repeating single words were investigated in a series of experiments using PET. Neuropsychological and psycholinguistic studies implicate the involvement of posterior and anterior left perisylvian regions (Wernicke's and Broca's areas). Although previous functional neuroimaging studies have consistently shown activation of Wernicke's area, there has been only variable implication of Broca's area. This study demonstrates that Broca's area is involved in both auditory word perception and repetition but activation is dependent on task (greater during repetition than hearing) and stimulus presentation (greater when hearing words at a slow rate). The peak of frontal activation in response to hearing words is anterior to that associated with repeating words; the former is probably located in Brodmann's area 45, the latter in Brodmann's area 44 and the adjacent precentral sulcus. As Broca's area activation is more subtle and complex than that in Wernicke's area during these tasks, the likelihood of observing it is influenced by both the study design and the image analysis technique employed. As a secondary outcome from the study, the response of bilateral auditory association cortex to ‘own voice’ during repetition was shown to be the same as when listening to ‘other voice’ from a prerecorded tape.