Permanent URL to this publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.5167/uzh-48998
Wang, L; Schlesewsky, M; Bickel, B; Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, I (2009). Exploring the nature of the `subject'-preference: evidence from the online comprehension of simple sentences in Mandarin Chinese. Language And Cognitive Processes, 24(7-8):1180 - 1226.
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In two visual ERP studies, we investigated whether Mandarin Chinese shows a subject-preference in spite of the controversial status of grammatical relations in this language. We compared ERP responses at the position of the verb and the second NP in object-verb-subject (OVS) and subject-verb-object (SVO) structures. While SVO is the basic word order in Chinese and OV with subject-drop is possible, OVS is strongly dispreferred. At the position of the verb, which disambiguated towards an object or a subject reading of NP1, Experiment 1 revealed an N400 for both subject-initial control conditions in comparison with the critical object-initial condition. Experiment 2 showed that this result was due to differences in lexical-semantic relatedness between NP1 and the verb. When these were controlled for, we observed an N400 for the disambiguation towards an object-initial order, i.e., evidence for a subject-preference. At the postverbal NP, the object-initial condition showed a biphasic N400-late positivity pattern in both experiments. We interpret the N400 as reflecting the processing of an unexpected argument and the late positivity as a correlate of a well-formedness mismatch. Overall, our results suggest that Mandarin Chinese shows a subject-preference for an initial argument, thus providing further converging support for the notion that the subject-preference might constitute a universal processing strategy. We argue that the functional basis for this strategy lies in cross-linguistically applicable economy principles that serve to constrain incremental interpretation.
|Item Type:||Journal Article, refereed, original work|
|Communities & Collections:||06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of General Linguistics|
|Deposited On:||24 Oct 2011 09:29|
|Last Modified:||11 Jan 2013 14:39|
|Publisher:||Taylor & Francis|
|WoS Citation Count:||6|
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