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Effects of Grammaticality and Morphological Complexity on the P600 Event-Related Potential Component

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      Abstract

      We investigated interactions between morphological complexity and grammaticality on electrophysiological markers of grammatical processing during reading. Our goal was to determine whether morphological complexity and stimulus grammaticality have independent or additive effects on the P600 event-related potential component. Participants read sentences that were either well-formed or grammatically ill-formed, in which the critical word was either morphologically simple or complex. Results revealed no effects of complexity for well-formed stimuli, but the P600 amplitude was significantly larger for morphologically complex ungrammatical stimuli than for morphologically simple ungrammatical stimuli. These findings suggest that some previous work may have inadequately characterized factors related to reanalysis during morphosyntactic processing. Our results show that morphological complexity by itself does not elicit P600 effects. However, in ungrammatical circumstances, overt morphology provides a more robust and reliable cue to morphosyntactic relationships than null affixation.

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          This paper investigates the role of resource allocation as a source of processing difficulty in human sentence comprehension. The paper proposes a simple information-theoretic characterization of processing difficulty as the work incurred by resource reallocation during parallel, incremental, probabilistic disambiguation in sentence comprehension, and demonstrates its equivalence to the theory of Hale [Hale, J. (2001). A probabilistic Earley parser as a psycholinguistic model. In Proceedings of NAACL (Vol. 2, pp. 159-166)], in which the difficulty of a word is proportional to its surprisal (its negative log-probability) in the context within which it appears. This proposal subsumes and clarifies findings that high-constraint contexts can facilitate lexical processing, and connects these findings to well-known models of parallel constraint-based comprehension. In addition, the theory leads to a number of specific predictions about the role of expectation in syntactic comprehension, including the reversal of locality-based difficulty patterns in syntactically constrained contexts, and conditions under which increased ambiguity facilitates processing. The paper examines a range of established results bearing on these predictions, and shows that they are largely consistent with the surprisal theory.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Program in Neuroscience, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States of America
            [2 ]Department of Linguistics, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, Neuroscience Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, United States of America
            [3 ]Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States of America
            The National Institutes of Health, UNITED STATES
            Author notes

            Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

            Conceived and designed the experiments: ASM DT GDV. Performed the experiments: ASM EKW. Analyzed the data: ASM. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: LO. Wrote the paper: ASM DT LO.

            Contributors
            Role: Editor
            Journal
            PLoS One
            PLoS ONE
            plos
            plosone
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
            1932-6203
            21 October 2015
            2015
            : 10
            : 10
            26488893
            4619296
            10.1371/journal.pone.0140850
            PONE-D-15-19031
            (Editor)

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

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            Figures: 3, Tables: 2, Pages: 16
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            Funding
            The authors received no funding specifically designated for this work. Portions of this research were conducted while ASM was supported by National Institutes of Health ( http://www.nih.gov/) grant F31 DC013700 and National Institutes of Health grant T32 DC005361, while DT was supported by National Science Foundation ( http://www.nsf.gov/) grant BCS-1349110 and National Science Foundation grant BCS-1431324, and while LO was supported by National Science Foundation grant BCS-1261501. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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