Luigi piace a Laura?
The syntactic properties of psych verbs have been debated in theoretical linguistics since the seminal paper by Belletti and Rizzi (1988). However, surprisingly little is known about the neural processes underlying the comprehension of psych verb constructions. Here, we report an electrophysiological study on Italian piacere-class verbs, which were presented in sentences with subject-verb-object (SVO) and object-verb-subject (OVS) orders and contrasted with Agent-Theme (“active”) verbs. At the verb position, we observed a biphasic N400–late positivity pattern for active versus piacere-class verbs in object-initial orders and a late positivity for piacere-class versus active verbs in subject-initial orders. These results demonstrate that thematic expectations are generated incrementally and may be based upon only a single argument. They further support the idea of structural differences between piacere-class verbs and other verb classes in Italian and suggest that these are used rapidly to inform language processing.