During language production and comprehension, information about a word's syntactic properties is sometimes needed. While the decision about the grammatical gender of a word requires access to syntactic knowledge, it has also been hypothesized that semantic (i.e., biological gender) or phonological information (i.e., sound regularities) may influence this decision. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were measured while native speakers of German processed written words that were or were not semantically and/or phonologically marked for gender. Behavioral and ERP results showed that participants were faster in making a gender decision when words were semantically and/or phonologically gender marked than when this was not the case, although the phonological effects were less clear. In conclusion, our data provide evidence that even though participants performed a grammatical gender decision, this task can be influenced by semantic and phonological factors.
a b s t r a c t a r t i c l e i n f oWhen we perceive speech, our goal is to extract the meaning of the verbal message which includes semantic processing. However, how deeply do we process speech in different situations? In two experiments, native Dutch participants heard spoken sentences describing simultaneously presented pictures. Sentences either correctly described the pictures or contained an anomalous final word (i.e. a semantically or phonologically incongruent word). In the first experiment, spoken sentences were task-irrelevant and both anomalous conditions elicited similar centro-parietal N400s that were larger in amplitude than the N400 for the correct condition. In the second experiment, we ensured that participants processed the same stimuli semantically. In an early time window, we found similar phonological mismatch negativities for both anomalous conditions compared to the correct condition. These negativities were followed by an N400 that was larger for semantic than phonological errors. Together, these data suggest that we process speech semantically, even if the speech is task-irrelevant. Once listeners allocate more cognitive resources to the processing of speech, we suggest that they make predictions for upcoming words, presumably by means of the production system and an internal monitoring loop, to facilitate lexical processing of the perceived speech.
Form-priming effects from sublexical (syllabic or segmental) primes in masked priming can be accounted for in two ways. One is the sublexical pre-activation view according to which segments are pre-activated by the prime, and at the time the form-related target is to be produced, retrieval/assembly of those pre-activated segments is faster compared to an unrelated situation. However, it has also been argued that form-priming effects from sublexical primes might be due to lexical pre-activation. When the sublexical prime is presented, it activates all form-related words (i.e., cohorts) in the lexicon, necessarily including the form-related target, which-as a consequence-is produced faster than in the unrelated case. Note, however, that this lexical pre-activation account makes previous pre-lexical activation of segments necessary. This study reports a nonword naming experiment to investigate whether or not sublexical pre-activation is involved in masked form priming with sublexical primes. The results demonstrated a priming effect suggesting a nonlexical effect. However, this does not exclude an additional lexical component in form priming.
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