Morphosyntactic prediction in automatic neural processing of spoken language: EEG evidence

Maria Alekseeva, Andriy Myachykov, Beatriz Bermudez Margaretto, Yury Shtyrov

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Automatic parsing of syntactic information by the human brain is a well-established phenomenon, but its mechanisms remain poorly understood. Its best-known neurophysiological reflection is early left-anterior negativity (ELAN) ERP component with two alternative hypotheses for its origin: (1) error detection, or (2) morphosyntactic prediction/priming. To test these alternatives, we conducted two experiments using a non-attend passive design with visual distraction and recorded ERPs to spoken pronoun-verb phrases and the same critical verbs presented in isolation without pronouns. The results revealed an ELAN at ∼130-220 ms for pronoun-verb gender agreement violations, confirming a high degree of automaticity in early morphosyntactic parsing. Critically, the strongest ELAN was elicited by verbs outside phrasal context, which suggests that the typical ELAN pattern is underpinned by a reduction of ERP amplitudes for felicitous combinations, reflecting syntactic priming/predictability between related words/morphemes (potentially mediated by associative links formed during previous linguistic experience) rather than specialized error-detection processes. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2024. Published by Elsevier B.V.]
Original languageEnglish
Article number148949
Number of pages15
JournalBrain Research
Early online date17 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Apr 2024

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