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Neuropsychologia. 2000;38(11):1531-49.

ERP effects of listening to speech compared to reading: the P600/SPS to syntactic violations in spoken sentences and rapid serial visual presentation.

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  • 1Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Wundtlaan 1, NL-6525 XD, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


In this study, event-related brain potential effects of speech processing are obtained and compared to similar effects in sentence reading. In two experiments sentences were presented that contained three different types of grammatical violations. In one experiment sentences were presented word by word at a rate of four words per second. The grammatical violations elicited a Syntactic Positive Shift (P600/SPS), 500 ms after the onset of the word that rendered the sentence ungrammatical. The P600/SPS consisted of two phases, an early phase with a relatively equal anterior-posterior distribution and a later phase with a strong posterior distribution. We interpret the first phase as an indication of structural integration complexity, and the second phase as an indication of failing parsing operations and/or an attempt at reanalysis. In the second experiment the same syntactic violations were presented in sentences spoken at a normal rate and with normal intonation. These violations elicited a P600/SPS with the same onset as was observed for the reading of these sentences. In addition two of the three violations showed a preceding frontal negativity, most clearly over the left hemisphere.

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