Processing the universal quantifier during sentence comprehension: ERP evidence
This study investigates the temporal neural dynamics of processing the Chinese universal quantifier dou during Chinese sentence comprehension using the event-related potential (ERP) technique. Universal quantifier violations were created when the universal quantifier dou (all, every) was misplaced either after a singular object noun phrase (NP) in a Subject–Object–Verb (SOV) sentence (Experiments 1 and 3) or after a singular subject NP in a SVO sentence (Experiment 2). Participants were asked to make semantic plausibility judgment (Experiments 1 and 2) or to comprehend sentences real time followed by a sentence recognition test at the end of the experiment (Experiment 3). Experiment 1 found that quantifier violations elicited a sustained positivity from 400 to 1100 ms post-onset of the quantifier and a sustained negativity from 300 to 800 ms post-onset of the following verb. Experiment 2 varied the distance between dou and the following verb by the presence or absence of an adverb between them. Again, the sustained positivity was observed on the mismatching quantifier; in addition, a sustained negativity was observed on the word immediately following the quantifier, regardless of whether this word was a verb or adverb. Experiment 3 used the same stimuli as Experiment 1 but with a different task. The quantifier violation elicited anteriorly distributed negativities over different time intervals post-onset of the quantifier. The sustained positivity is interpreted as being associated with an integration process that links the universal quantifier with the preceding entity. The sustained negativity is attributed to a second-pass process to reinterpret the sentence. Other functional interpretations of the ERP components were discussed and ruled out.