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An ERP study of the processing of Mandarin classifiers

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Abstract

Comprehension of Mandarin classifier-noun sequences was examined by comparing event-related brain potential (ERP) responses to classifier-noun matches (一纸; a sheet of paper) and mismatches (一咖啡; a sheet of coffee). One goal was to determine which ERP components are sensitive to such matches, as a clue about the nature of the underlying combinatorial processes. Another goal was to examine effects of classifier constraint strength (a piece of … vs a sheet of …) on anticipation of the subsequent noun. Results showed that nouns evoked larger N400 in mismatching classifier-noun sequences, suggesting that combinatorial processing was primarily semantic. General classifiers evoked a larger sustained frontal negativity than specific classifiers, reflecting effects of constraint strength on anticipation of the upcoming noun. In addition, classifier presence was manipulated. The classifier-absent condition evoked a P600 in the first half of the experiment and an Anterior Negativity in the second half, suggesting that readers changed processing strategy over time.

References

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