A number of studies have explored the time course of Chinese semantic and syntactic processing. However, whether syntactic processing occurs earlier than semantics during Chinese sentence reading is still under debate. To further explore this issue, an event-related potentials (ERPs) experiment was conducted on 21 native Chinese speakers who read individually-presented Chinese simple sentences (NP1+VP+NP2) word-by-word for comprehension and made semantic plausibility judgments. The transitivity of the verbs was manipulated to form three types of stimuli: congruent sentences (CON), sentences with a semantically violated NP2 following a transitive verb (semantic violation, SEM), and sentences with a semantically violated NP2 following an intransitive verb (combined semantic and syntactic violation, SEM+SYN). The ERPs evoked from the target NP2 were analyzed by using the Residue Iteration Decomposition (RIDE) method to reconstruct the ERP waveform blurred by trial-to-trial variability, as well as by using the conventional ERP method based on stimulus-locked averaging. The conventional ERP analysis showed that, compared with the critical words in CON, those in SEM and SEM+SYN elicited an N400-P600 biphasic pattern. The N400 effects in both violation conditions were of similar size and distribution, but the P600 in SEM+SYN was bigger than that in SEM. Compared with the conventional ERP analysis, RIDE analysis revealed a larger N400 effect and an earlier P600 effect (in the time window of 500-800 ms instead of 570-810ms). Overall, the combination of conventional ERP analysis and the RIDE method for compensating for trial-to-trial variability confirmed the non-significant difference between SEM and SEM+SYN in the earlier N400 time window. Converging with previous findings on other Chinese structures, the currentstudy provides further precise evidence that syntactic processing in Chinese does not occur earlier than semantic processing.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)