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ERIC Number: EJ813891
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Nov
Pages: 25
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0093-934X
The Neural Mechanisms of Word Order Processing Revisited: Electrophysiological Evidence from Japanese
Wolff, Susann; Schlesewsky, Matthias; Hirotani, Masako; Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, Ina
Brain and Language, v107 n2 p133-157 Nov 2008
We present two ERP studies on the processing of word order variations in Japanese, a language that is suited to shedding further light on the implications of word order freedom for neurocognitive approaches to sentence comprehension. Experiment 1 used auditory presentation and revealed that initial accusative objects elicit increased processing costs in comparison to initial subjects (in the form of a transient negativity) "only" when followed by a prosodic boundary. A similar effect was observed using visual presentation in Experiment 2, however only for accusative but not for dative objects. These results support a "relational" account of word order processing, in which the costs of comprehending an object-initial word order are determined by the linearization properties of the initial object in relation to the linearization properties of possible upcoming arguments. In the absence of a prosodic boundary, the possibility for subject omission in Japanese renders it likely that the initial accusative is the only argument in the clause. Hence, no upcoming arguments are expected and no linearization problem can arise. A prosodic boundary or visual segmentation, by contrast, indicate an object-before-subject word order, thereby leading to a mismatch between argument "prominence" (e.g. in terms of thematic roles) and linear order. This mismatch is alleviated when the initial object is highly prominent itself (e.g. in the case of a dative, which can bear the higher-ranking thematic role in a two argument relation). We argue that the processing mechanism at work here can be distinguished from more general aspects of "dependency processing" in object-initial sentences. (Contains 11 figures and 5 tables.)
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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