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Event-related potentials elicited by spoken relative clauses

By Horst M. Mueller, Jonathan W. King and Marta Kutas


Sentence-length event-related potential (ERP) waveforms were obtained from 23 scalp sites as 24 subjects listened to normally spoken sentences of various syntactic structures. The critical materials consisted of 36 sentences each containing one of 2 types of relative clauses that differ in processing difficulty, namely Subject Object (SO) and Subject Subject (SS) relative clauses. Sentence-length ERPs showed several differences in the slow scalp potentials elicited by SO and SS sentences that were similar in their temporal dynamics to those elicited by the same stimuli in a word-by-word reading experiment, although the effects in the two modalities have non identical distributions. Just as for written sentences, there was a large, fronto-central negativity beginning at the linguistically defined "gap" in the SO sentences; this effect was largest for listeners with above-median comprehension rates, and is hypothesized to index changes in on-line processing demands during comprehension

Topics: Syntax, Neurolinguistics, Psycholinguistics
Year: 1997
DOI identifier: 10.1016/s0926-6410(96)00070-5
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