On the distinctiveness, independence, and time course of the brain responses to syntactic and semantic anomalies

Author(s): Osterhout L, Nicol J


We evaluated the distinctiveness, independence, and relative time courses of the event-related brain potentials (ERPs) elicited by syntactically and semantically anomalous words. ERPs were recorded from 13 scalp electrodes while subjects read sentences, some of which contained a selectional restriction violation (semantically anomalous), a verb tense violation (syntactically anomalous), or a doubly anomalous word that violated both selectional restriction and verb tense constraints. Semantic anomalies elicited a monophasic increase in N400 amplitude, whereas syntactic anomalies elicited a late positive shift with an onset around 500 msec and a duration of several hundred msec. Doubly anomalous words elicited both an increase in N400 amplitude and a late positive wave, and these effects summated in an approximately (but not perfectly) linear manner. These results are discussed with respect to the hypotheses that syntactic and semantic processes are separable and independent.

Similar Articles


Author(s): Searle JR

The time-course of metaphor comprehension: An event-related potential study

Author(s): Pynte J, Besson M, Robichon FH, Poli J

Differentiating among pragmatic uses of words through timed sensicality judgments

Author(s): Bambini V, Ghio M, Moro A, Schumacher PB

Metaphor and the space structuring model

Author(s): Coulson S, Matlock T

ERPs of metaphoric, literal, and incongruous semantic processing in schizophrenia

Author(s): Iakimova G, Passerieux C, Laurent JP, Hardy‐Bayle MC

Onunderstanding idiomatic language: The salience hypothesis assessed by ERPs

Author(s): Laurent JP, Denhieres G, Passerieux C, Iakimova G, Hardy-Bayle MC

Neural activity associated with metaphor comprehension: spatial analysis

Author(s): Sotillo M, Carretié L, Hinojosa JA, Tapia M, Mercado F, et al.

Beyond laterality: a critical assessment of research on the neural basis of metaphor

Author(s): Schmidt GL, Kranjec A, Cardillo ER, Chatterjee A

Contextual effects on conceptual blending in metaphors: An event-related potential study

Author(s): Yang FPG, Bradley K, HuqM, Wu DL, Krawczyk DC