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How Is Sentence Processing Affected by External Semantic and Syntactic Information? Evidence from Event-Related Potentials

Schacht, Annekathrin and Martín-Loeches, Manuel and Casado, Pilar and Abdel Rahman, Rasha and Sel, Alejandra and Sommer, Werner (2010) 'How Is Sentence Processing Affected by External Semantic and Syntactic Information? Evidence from Event-Related Potentials.' PLoS ONE, 5 (3). ISSN 1932-6203

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Background A crucial question for understanding sentence comprehension is the openness of syntactic and semantic processes for other sources of information. Using event-related potentials in a dual task paradigm, we had previously found that sentence processing takes into consideration task relevant sentence-external semantic but not syntactic information. In that study, internal and external information both varied within the same linguistic domain—either semantic or syntactic. Here we investigated whether across-domain sentence-external information would impact within-sentence processing. Methodology In one condition, adjectives within visually presented sentences of the structure [Det]-[Noun]-[Adjective]-[Verb] were semantically correct or incorrect. Simultaneously with the noun, auditory adjectives were presented that morphosyntactically matched or mismatched the visual adjectives with respect to gender. Findings As expected, semantic violations within the sentence elicited N400 and P600 components in the ERP. However, these components were not modulated by syntactic matching of the sentence-external auditory adjective. In a second condition, syntactic within-sentence correctness-variations were combined with semantic matching variations between the auditory and the visual adjective. Here, syntactic within-sentence violations elicited a LAN and a P600 that did not interact with semantic matching of the auditory adjective. However, semantic mismatching of the latter elicited a frontocentral positivity, presumably related to an increase in discourse level complexity. Conclusion The current findings underscore the open versus algorithmic nature of semantic and syntactic processing, respectively, during sentence comprehension.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2019 12:41
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2019 13:15

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