Temporal characteristics of online syntactic sentence planning: an event-related potential study

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Abstract

During sentence production, linguistic information (semantics, syntax, phonology) of words is retrieved and assembled into a meaningful utterance. There is still debate on how we assemble single words into more complex syntactic structures such as noun phrases or sentences. In the present study, event-related potentials (ERPs) were used to investigate the time course of syntactic planning. Thirty-three volunteers described visually animated scenes using naming formats varying in syntactic complexity: from simple words ('W', e.g., "triangle", "red", "square", "green", "to fly towards"), to noun phrases ('NP', e.g., "the red triangle", "the green square", "to fly towards"), to a sentence ('S', e.g., "The red triangle flies towards the green square."). Behaviourally, we observed an increase in errors and corrections with increasing syntactic complexity, indicating a successful experimental manipulation. In the ERPs following scene onset, syntactic complexity variations were found in a P300-like component ('S'/'NP'>'W') and a fronto-central negativity (linear increase with syntactic complexity). In addition, the scene could display two actions - unpredictable for the participant, as the disambiguation occurred only later in the animation. Time-locked to the moment of visual disambiguation of the action and thus the verb, we observed another P300 component ('S'>'NP'/'W'). The data show for the first time evidence of sensitivity to syntactic planning within the P300 time window, time-locked to visual events critical of syntactic planning. We discuss the findings in the light of current syntactic planning views.
Original languageEnglish
Article number82884
Number of pages11
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume8
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2013

Keywords

  • BRAIN
  • COMPREHENSION
  • DYNAMICS
  • ELECTROPHYSIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE
  • INFORMATION
  • LANGUAGE PRODUCTION
  • LEXICAL ACCESS
  • SCOPE
  • SPEAKING
  • TIME-COURSE

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