Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The role of grammatical gender and number representations in syntactic processes during reading in Spanish was studied using the event-related potentials (ERPs) technique. The electroencephalogram was recorded with a dense array of 128 electrodes while Spanish speakers read word pairs (Experiment 1) or sentences (Experiment 2) in which gender or number agreement relationships were manipulated. Disagreement in word pairs formed by a noun and an adjective (e.g., faro–alto [lighthouse–high]) produced an N400-type effect, while word pairs formed by an article and a noun (e.g., el–piano [the-piano]) showed an additional left anterior negativity effect (LAN). Agreement violations with the same words inserted in sentences (e.g., El piano estaba viejo y desafinado [the m-s piano m-s was old m-s and off-key]) resulted in a pattern of LAN–P600. This effect was found both when the violation occurred in the middle of the sentence (at the adjective), as well as when this happened at the beginning of the sentence (at the noun), but the last segment of the P600 effect was greater for the middle sentence position, which could indicate differences in the complexity of reanalysis processes. Differences between grammatical gender and number disagreement were found in late measures. In the word pairs experiment, P3 peak latency varied across conditions, being later for gender than for number disagreement. Similarly, in the sentence experiment, the last segment of the P600 effect was greater for gender than for number violations. These event-related potentials (ERPs) effects lend support to the idea that reanalysis or repair processes after grammatical disagreement detection could involve more steps in the case of gender disagreement, as grammatical gender is a feature of the lexical representation in contrast to number, which is considered a morphological feature that combines with the stem of the word.