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Predicting form and meaning: Evidence from brain potentials

Ito, A., Corley, M., Pickering, M. J., Martin, A. E., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2016). Predicting form and meaning: Evidence from brain potentials. Journal of Memory and Language, 86, 157-171. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2015.10.007.
We used ERPs to investigate the pre-activation of form and meaning in language comprehension. Participants read high-cloze sentence contexts (e.g., “The student is going to the library to borrow a…”), followed by a word that was predictable (book), form-related (hook) or semantically related (page) to the predictable word, or unrelated (sofa). At a 500 ms SOA (Experiment 1), semantically related words, but not form-related words, elicited a reduced N400 compared to unrelated words. At a 700 ms SOA (Experiment 2), semantically related words and form-related words elicited reduced N400 effects, but the effect for form-related words occurred in very high-cloze sentences only. At both SOAs, form-related words elicited an enhanced, post-N400 posterior positivity (Late Positive Component effect). The N400 effects suggest that readers can pre-activate meaning and form information for highly predictable words, but form pre-activation is more limited than meaning pre-activation. The post-N400 LPC effect suggests that participants detected the form similarity between expected and encountered input. Pre-activation of word forms crucially depends upon the time that readers have to make predictions, in line with production-based accounts of linguistic prediction.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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