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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

July 2000, Vol. 12, No. 4, Pages 556-568
(doi: 10.1162/089892900562336)
© 2000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Syntactic Gender and Semantic Expectancy: ERPs Reveal Early Autonomy and Late Interaction
Article PDF (432.5 KB)

This experiment explored the effect of semantic expectancy on the processing of grammatical gender, and vice versa, in German using event-related-potentials (ERPs). Subjects were presented with correct sentences and sentences containing an article-noun gender agreement violation. The cloze probability of the nouns was either high or low. ERPs were measured on the nouns. The low-cloze nouns evoked a larger N400 than the high-cloze nouns. Gender violations elicited a left-anterior negativity (LAN, 300-600 msec) for all nouns. An additional P600 component was found only in high-cloze nouns. The N400 was independent of the gender mismatch variable; the LAN was independent of the semantic variable, whereas an interaction of the two variables was found in the P600. This finding indicates that syntactic and semantic processes are autonomous during an early processing stage, whereas these information types interact during a later processing phase.