Semantic P600—but not N400—effects index crosslinguistic variability in speakers’ expectancies for expression of motion

Samantha N. Emerson, Christopher M. Conway, Şeyda Özçalışkan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The expression of motion shows strong crosslinguistic variability; however, less is known about speakers’ expectancies for lexicalizations of motion at the neural level. We examined event-related brain potentials (ERPs) in native English or Spanish speakers while they read grammatical sentences describing animations involving manner and path components of motion that did or did not violate language-specific patterns of expression. ERPs demonstrated different expectancies between speakers: Spanish speakers showed higher expectancies for motion verbs to encode path and English speakers showed higher expectancies for motion verbs to encode manner followed by a secondary path expression. Interestingly, grammatical but infrequent motion expressions (manner verbs in Spanish, path verbs and secondary manner expressions in English) elicited semantic P600 rather than the expected N400 effects—with or without post-N400 positivities—that are typically associated with semantic processing. Overall, our findings provide the first empirical evidence for the effect of crosslinguistic variation in processing motion event descriptions at the neural level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107638
JournalNeuropsychologia
Volume149
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Event-related brain potentials
  • Motion events
  • N400
  • P600
  • Post-N400 positivity
  • Semantics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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