In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, a novel connectivity analysis method termed within-condition interregional covariance analysis (WICA) was introduced for investigation into brain modulation during tongue movement and reading Chinese pinyins and logographic characters. We found that performing a horizontal tongue movement task generated a specific brain module with hierarchical orders of neural computation. Such functional modularity was further examined during both overt and silent Chinese reading tasks. Our results showed that overt pinyin reading was associated with the following distributed regions involved in tongue movement: the primary motor cortex (M1), the supplementary motor area (SMA), Broca's area, and Wernicke's area. Furthermore, we have used the WICA and demonstrated task-dependent covariance patterns that are strongly associated with the M1 mouth/tongue region, in which the Broca-Wernicke pathway is implicated in a meaning access procedure based on assembled phonology, while the SMA-Broca pathway is implicated in a meaning access procedure based on addressed phonology. Our functional connectivity analysis of the neural pathway involved in language processing may provide a basis for future studies of the dynamic neural network associated with language learning and reading in both developmental and disease conditions. Hum. Brain Mapping 18:222–232, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.