Neurophysiological correlates of automatic integration of voice and gender information during grammatical processing

Maria Alekseeva*, Andriy Myachykov, Beatriz Bermúdez-Margaretto, Yury Shtyrov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

During verbal communication, interlocutors rely on both linguistic (e.g., words, syntax) and extralinguistic (e.g., voice quality) information. The neural mechanisms of extralinguistic information processing are particularly poorly understood. To address this, we used EEG and recorded event-related brain potentials while participants listened to Russian pronoun–verb phrases presented in either male or female voice. Crucially, we manipulated congruency between the grammatical gender signaled by the verbs’ ending and the speakers’ apparent gender. To focus on putative automatic integration of extralinguistic information into syntactic processing and avoid confounds arising from secondary top-down processes, we used passive non-attend auditory presentation with visual distraction and no stimulus-related task. Most expressed neural responses were found at both early (150 ms, ELAN-like) and late (400 ms, N400-like) phrase processing stages. Crucially, both of these brain responses exhibited sensitivity to extralinguistic information and were significantly enhanced for phrases whose voice and grammatical gender were incongruent, similar to what is known for ERPs effects related to overt grammatical violations. Our data suggest a high degree of automaticity in processing extralinguistic information during spoken language comprehension which indicates existence of a rapid automatic syntactic integration mechanism sensitive to both linguistic and extralinguistic information.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13114
JournalScientific Reports
Volume12
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jul 2022

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