Auditory and visual ERP correlates of gender agreement processing in Dutch and Italian
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 13:11 authored by Srđan Popov
The present thesis revolves around the processing of (linguistic) gender and gender agreement in reading/listening. It focuses on real-time processing which is why event-related potentials (ERPs) were chosen as the preferred experimental method. The studies presented here address questions that pertain to psycholinguistic issues related to gender agreement processing, as well as methodological aspects related to the use of ERPs in agreement studies. The majority of agreement studies apply the so-called 'violation paradigm' (e.g., Osterhout, McLaughlin, Kim, Greenwald, & Inoue, 2004), which means presenting participants with sentences containing agreement errors (agreement mismatch). Since each experiment in this thesis contained a violation paradigm, it is more appropriate to talk about gender disagreement rather than gender agreement processing. Two central issues act as the backbone of this work. Firstly, we study the relationship between gender disagreement and the repair and reanalysis processes as reflected by the late syntactic component (P600; Friederici, 2002; Kaan & Swaab, 2003). In the first two experiments (Chapters 2 and 3), this is achieved by comparing syntactic and semantic gender in Italian. This study is intertwined with the issue of whether semantics can influence syntactic processing and how this is reflected in the P600 component. The last two experiments (Chapters 4 and 5) also investigate the repair mechanism, but by comparing gender and number disagreement in Dutch. The second issue investigated in the current thesis is methodological. It relates to the role of input modality (visual or auditory) and real-time processing with ERPs. Each experiment in this thesis was conducted as a reading study first (Chapters 2 and 4) and then as a listening study (Chapters 3 and 5), thus allowing us to manipulate stimulus duration, as well as the violation recognition point while using identical stimuli. By so doing, we were able to compare reading and listening in terms of the presence/absence of language-related ERP components, as well as their temporal and topographic characteristics. By combining the two research goals, we obtained a more detailed picture of the processes underlying gender agreement and their relationship to language-related ERP components. This introduction provides a general framework for the 4 ensuing experimental chapters. It firstly introduces the technique (ERPs) and its application in the sentence processing field. Afterwards, the theoretical framework for four studies is provided. The introduction ends with the predictions stemming from such framework and with a presentation of the structure of the thesis.