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Incremental comprehension of spoken quantifier sentences: Evidence from brain potentials

Freunberger, D., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2016). Incremental comprehension of spoken quantifier sentences: Evidence from brain potentials. Brain Research, 1646, 475-481. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2016.06.035.
Do people incrementally incorporate the meaning of quantifier expressions to understand an unfolding sentence? Most previous studies concluded that quantifiers do not immediately influence how a sentence is understood based on the observation that online N400-effects differed from offline plausibility judgments. Those studies, however, used serial visual presentation (SVP), which involves unnatural reading. In the current ERP-experiment, we presented spoken positive and negative quantifier sentences (“Practically all/practically no postmen prefer delivering mail, when the weather is good/bad during the day”). Different from results obtained in a previously reported SVP-study (Nieuwland, 2016) sentence truth-value N400 effects occurred in positive and negative quantifier sentences alike, reflecting fully incremental quantifier comprehension. This suggests that the prosodic information available during spoken language comprehension supports the generation of online predictions for upcoming words and that, at least for quantifier sentences, comprehension of spoken language may proceed more incrementally than comprehension during SVP reading.
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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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