Volume 26, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1387-9316
  • E-ISSN: 1569-996X
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Anaphoric pronoun resolution in spoken language has been shown to be influenced by the first mention bias. While this bias has been well investigated in spoken languages, less is known about a similar bias in sign languages. In sign languages, pronominal pointing signs () are directed towards referential locations in the signing space typically associated with discourse referents. In German Sign Language (DGS), signers follow an ipsi-contralateral default pattern while tracking referents, i.e., the first referent is associated with the ipsilateral and the second referent with the contralateral area of the signing space. Hence, directing a pronoun to either the ipsi- or the contralateral side of the signing space refers to either the first or the second discourse referent. The present event-related potential study reanalyzes the data from Wienholz et al. (2018) and examines the first mention effect during pronoun resolution in ambiguous contexts in DGS. The original study presented participants with sentence sets containing two referents without overt localization in the first and a sentence-initial pronominal sign in the second sentence directed to either the ipsilateral or contralateral side of the signing space. Based on the direction of the sign, our analysis reveals an N400 for contralateral signs suggesting increased processing costs triggered by a violation of the first mention effect. Thus, the current study provides first experimental evidence for a first mention effect in DGS and highlights the modality-independent nature of this effect.


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