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ERIC Number: EJ792598
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-May
Pages: 22
Abstractor: Author
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0093-934X
The Role of Animacy in the Real Time Comprehension of Mandarin Chinese: Evidence from Auditory Event-Related Brain Potentials
Philipp, Markus; Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, Ina; Bisang, Walter; Schlesewsky, Matthias
Brain and Language, v105 n2 p112-133 May 2008
Two auditory ERP studies examined the role of animacy in sentence comprehension in Mandarin Chinese by comparing active and passive sentences in simple verb-final (Experiment 1) and relative clause constructions (Experiment 2). In addition to the voice manipulation (which modulated the assignment of actor and undergoer roles to the arguments), both arguments were either animate or inanimate. This allowed us to examine the interplay of animacy with thematic interpretation. In Experiment 1, we observed no effect of animacy at NP1, but N400 effects for inanimate actor arguments in second position. This result mirrors previous findings in German, thus suggesting that an initial undergoer universally leads to the prediction of an ideal (animate) actor. We also observed an N400 effect for passive sentences with an inanimate initial (undergoer) argument. We attribute this effect to a language-specific property of the passive construction in Chinese, namely that the first argument is negatively affected by the event described (i.e. bears an experiencer role). Experiment 2 showed that both of these effects can also be observed in sentence constructions of another type, in which the critical information sources become available in a different order. These findings provide the first demonstration that the N400 is not only sensitive to general (universal) aspects of thematic processing (i.e. "who is acting on whom") but also to the interaction between thematic interpretation and language-specific pragmatic principles.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A