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Sentences with filler-gap dependency are more difficult to process than those without, as reflected by event-related brain potentials (ERPs) such as sustained left anterior negativity (SLAN). The cognitive processes underlying SLAN may support associating a filler with a temporally distant gap in syntactic representation. Alternatively, processing filler-gap dependencies in the absence of a supportive context involves additional discourse processing. The present study conducted an ERP experiment that manipulated syntactic complexity (subject–object–verb [SOV] and object–subject–verb [OSV]) and discourse (the supportive and non-supportive context) in Japanese. The result showed a SLAN in OSV relative to SOV in the non-supportive but not the supportive context, which suggests that the difficulty involved in processing OSV in Japanese is largely due to a pragmatic factor. The present study contributes to a better understanding of how the language-processing system builds long-distance dependency by interacting with the memory system. [Open Access]
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Language, Cognition and Neuroscience
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Processing of non-canonical word orders in
(in)felicitous contexts: evidence from event-related
brain potentials
Masataka Yano & Masatoshi Koizumi
To cite this article: Masataka Yano & Masatoshi Koizumi (2018) Processing of non-canonical word
orders in (in)felicitous contexts: evidence from event-related brain potentials, Language, Cognition
and Neuroscience, 33:10, 1340-1354, DOI: 10.1080/23273798.2018.1489066
To link to this article:
© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa
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Published online: 30 Jun 2018.
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Processing of non-canonical word orders in (in)felicitous contexts: evidence from
event-related brain potentials
Masataka Yano
and Masatoshi Koizumi
Faculty of Humanities, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan;
Department of Linguistics, Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University,
Sendai, Japan;
Harvard-Yenching Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA
In many languages with exible word orders, canonical word order has a processing advantage over
non-canonical word orders. This observation suggests that it is more costly for the parser to represent
syntactically complex sentences. Alternatively, this phenomenon may relate to pragmatic factors
because most previous studies have presented non-canonical word orders without felicitous
context, which violates participantsexpectations regarding the information structure. The present
study conducted an event-related potential experiment to examine the locus of the processing
diculty associated with non-canonical word orders in Japanese by manipulating word order (SOV
vs. OSV) and the givenness of arguments. The results showed that OSV elicited a sustained left
anterior negativity from O to S and a P600 eect at S compared to that of SOV in the infelicitous
but not in the felicitous context. This result suggests that the processing diculty of non-canonical
word orders in Japanese is alleviated by discourse factors.
Received 14 November 2017
Accepted 8 June 2018
Word order; givenness; ller-
gap dependency; Japanese;
event-related potentials
1. Introduction
In real-time sentence comprehension, the parser incre-
mentally constructs various structural dependencies
from a string of successive inputs. Among such depen-
dencies, the processing of ller-gap dependency has
been extensively examined. Behavioural experiments of
many languages with exible word orders have repeat-
edly reported that canonical word order has a processing
advantage over other possible derived word orders with
ller-gap dependency (Bader & Meng, 1999; Kaiser &
Trueswell, 2004; Kim, 2012; Koizumi et al., 2014;
Mazuka, Itoh, & Kondo, 2002; Sekerina, 1997; Tamaoka
et al., 2005; Tamaoka, Kanduboda, & Sakai, 2011). For
example, Tamaoka et al. (2005) found that it took more
time to judge whether a sentence makes sense in non-
canonical object-subject-verb (OSV) sentences than in
canonical subject-object-verb (SOV) sentences in Japa-
nese. The processing advantage for canonical word
order has also been attested by neurolinguistic evidence,
such as fMRI and event-related brain potentials (ERPs)
(Fiebach, Schlesewsky, & Friederici, 2001,2002; Fiebach,
Schlesewsky, Lohmann, von Gramon, & Friederici, 2005;
Hagiwara, Soshi, Ishihara, & Imanaka, 2007; Kim et al.,
2009; Rösler, Pechmann, Streb, Röder, & Hennighausen,
1998; Ueno & Kluender, 2003).
These observations raise the question of why canonical
is preferred over non-canonical word orders in sentence
comprehension. One possible factor is conceptual accessi-
bility (the ease with which the mental representation of
some potential referent can be activated in or retrieved
from memory, Bock & Warren, 1985, p. 50) (Bornkessel-
Schlesewsky & Schlesewsky, 2009a,2009b;Kemmerer,
2012; Tanaka, Branigan, McLean, & Pickering, 2011). In
the languages in which an S precedes an O, a conceptually
more accessible agent precedes a conceptually less acces-
sible patient in canonical word orders, whereas the oppo-
site order occurs in non-canonical word orders. Several
studies have reported that prominent entities such as an
agent, animates, concretes, and prototypicals tend to
appear as sentence-initial subjects (cf. Bock & Warren,
1985; Bornkessel-Schlesewsky & Schlesewsky, 2009a;Bra-
nigan, Pickering, & Tanaka, 2008;Hirsh-Pasek&Golinko,
1996;Primus,1999; Slobin & Bever, 1982). Accordingly,
the preference for canonical SO order may derive from
the preference for agent-patient order. However, this
hypothesis cannot explain the preference for canonical
word orders in languages in which an S follows an O,
such as Kaqchikel (a Mayan language spoken in Guate-
mala) and Truku Seediq (an Austronesian language
spoken in Taiwan). Previous behavioural and ERP
© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-N onCommercial-NoDerivatives License (
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any way.
CONTACT Masataka Yano
2018, VOL. 33, NO. 10, 13401354
experiments have found that canonical VOS order incurred
a lower processing cost compared to that of non-canonical
word orders, such as SVO and VSO in Kaqchikel (Koizumi
et al., 2014; Koizumi & Kim, 2016; Yano, Yasunaga, &
Koizumi, 2017; Yasunaga, Yano, Yasugi, & Koizumi, 2015).
Moreover, an ERP experiment found a larger P600 eect
for the non-canonical SVO than the canonical VOS, irre-
spective of agent-patient order (i.e. voice alternation) in
Truku Seediq (Yano, Niikuni, et al., 2017). Therefore, the
conceptual accessibility hypothesis does not seem plaus-
ible for explaining canonical word-order preference.
Another possibility concerns the syntactic complex-
ities of non-canonical sentences. Since the ller must
be associated with its gap position (Frazier & Clifton,
1989), the storage and integration cost should increase
in non-canonical sentences (Gibson, 1998;2000). This
hypothesis has been supported by ERP experiments.
For example, Ueno and Kluender (2003) compared the
canonical SOV sentences in (1a) and the non-canonical
OSV sentences in (1b) in Japanese. They found a sus-
tained (bilateral) anterior negativity for the reckless
adventurer-nomin OSV compared to SOV. Furthermore,
OSV elicited a phasic P600 eect at the S (adventurer-
They interpreted their results by assuming that
the parser needed to actively maintain an O in the
working memory and syntactically integrate it with its
original position, reected by sustained anterior nega-
tivity and P600 eects, respectively. An fMRI study con-
ducted by Kim et al. (2009) revealed greater activity at
the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) in OVS than in SVO
in Japanese. They also took this increased activity as evi-
dence that syntactic complexity due to ller-gap depen-
dency induces a processing load associated with OSV.
(1) Ano jimotono shinbun-ni yoruto
the local newspaper-to according
According to the local newspaper ...
a. SOV:
sono inochishirazuno bokenka-ga toto sore-o mitsuketa-
the reckless adventurer-
nally that-
did the reckless adventurer nally discover that?
b. OSV:
sono inochishirazuno bokenka-ga toto _____
that-ACC the reckless adventurer-
nally discovered-
However, most previous studies did not take discourse
factors into account. Canonical word order can be used in
a variety of contexts, while non-canonical order is used in
limited contexts in which discourse requirements are
satised. Because previous studies presented non-canoni-
cal sentences in isolation, which violated participants
expectations regarding their information structure, the
extent to which the increased processing diculty can
be explained by discourse factors remains unclear.
2. Processing of non-canonical word order in
The felicitous use of non-canonical word orders has been
suggested to correlate with discourse factors, such as
givenness, as well as sentence-internal, non-syntactic
factors, such as the heaviness of displaced constituents
(e.g. Aissen, 1992; Birner & Ward, 2009; Kuno, 1987,
inter alia). In other words, canonical word order is a
default option for describing an event and occurs in a
wide range of contexts, whereas non-canonical word
order is a marked choice, and its use must be well motiv-
ated. Kuno (1978) claimed that scrambling is motivated
by what he called the Information Flow Principle. Accord-
ing to the Information Flow principle, OSV in Japanese is
used felicitously when O refers to discourse-older infor-
mation than S does. Otherwise, SOV should be preferred
over OSV. Consistent with this view, a corpus analysis
conducted by Imamura (2014) demonstrated that the
O of OSV in Japanese was discourse-old information in
81% of OSV occurrences in the corpus (see also
Imamura, 2015; Imamura & Koizumi, 2011). Furthermore,
in a sentence recall task, Ferreira and Yoshita (2003)
observed that native Japanese speakers tend to
produce ditransitive sentences in the given-new order
when asked to recall those that originally had the new-
given order. These observations support that scrambling
in Japanese is motivated to create a given-new order in a
Despite this close correlation, most previous studies
on sentence comprehension examined the processing
of non-canonical structures without felicitous context,
which leads to a confounding of the diculty of syn-
tactically complex structures and the accommodating
of an unsatised discourse requirement. This
problem was discussed in Kaiser and Trueswell
(2004), who conducted a self-paced reading exper-
iment to examine whether the processing diculty
with non-canonical word order relates to discourse
factors rather than syntactic complexities in Finnish
(see also Clifton C & Frazier, 2004; Grodner, Gibson,
& Watson, 2005; Meng, Bader, & Bayer, 1999; Sekerina,
2003). They presented two context types, as shown in
(2). The supportive context in (2a) referred to an O of
the target sentences in (3b) to license a felicitous use
of OVS, in which O must be discourse-old information
in Finnish, whereas the non-supportive context in (2b)
did not. The result showed no interaction of context
and word order at the V (seurasi followed).
However, they found a signicant two-way interaction
at the NP2 (hare-partand mouse-nom), due to a
longer reading time in OVS than in SVO only in the
non-supportive context.
(2) Preceding context
Lotta etsi eilen sieniä metsässä. Hän huomasi
Lotta looked-for yesterday mushrooms forest-in She-nom noticed
heinikossa (a)jäniksen /(b)hiiren joka liikkui varovasti eteenpäin.
grass-in hare-acc/mouse-acc that was.moving carefully forward.
Lotta looked for mushrooms in the forest yesterday. She noticed {(a) a hare /(b) a mouse} moving forward carefully in the grass.
(3) a. SVO
Hiiri seurasi jänistä ja linnut lauloivat.
mouse-NOM followed hare-PART and birds were.singing.
b. OVS
Jänistä seurasi hiiri ja linnut lauloivat.
hare-PART followed mouse-NOM and birds were.singing.
The mouse followed the hare and birds were singing.
A similar interaction of context by word order has
been observed in Japanese. In Japanese, the canonical
word order is SOV. According to transformational syntac-
tic theories, non-canonical OSV sentences involve a ller-
gap dependency between the fronted O and an associ-
ated gap between S and V (i.e. [O
[S gap
V]]). This
ller-gap dependency is lacking in canonical SOV sen-
tences. Koizumi and Imamura (2017) ran a self-paced
reading experiment using the same factorial manipu-
lation as Kaiser and Trueswell (2004) (i.e. supportive/
non-supportive × canonical/non-canonical word order).
They observed a signicant interaction between word
order and context at the NP2. This interaction showed
a larger word-order eect in the unsupportive than in
the supportive context. At the V, only the main word-
order eect was signicant, reecting a longer reading
time for OSV.
(4) Gaimusyoo-no zikan-wa (a) Kaneda-da. / (b)
Kaneda-COP / Kaneda-COP
It is (a) Kaneda/(b) Kuroki who is the vice minister of the Ministry of
Foreign Aairs.
(5) a. SOV:
Kuroki-ga Kaneda-o mukaeta rashii.
Kuroki-NOM Kaneda-ACC welcomed is.likely
It is likely that Kuroki welcomed Kaneda.
b. OSV:
Kaneda-o Kuroki-ga mukaeta rashii.
Kaneda-ACC Kuroki-NOM welcomed is.likely.
These results suggest that the processing diculty of
non-canonical sentences decreased when their discourse
requirement was satised. However, it is not clear from
behavioural experiments how this context eect pertains
to the processing diculty that has been claimed to be
associated with long-distance dependency formation,
such as the ller storage cost indexed by sustained anterior
negativity and the syntactic integration cost indexed by
P600 in ERP experiments. If these ERP eects are related
to the cost of syntactic dependency formation as has
been suggested, we expect them not to be modulated
by contextual factors. On the other hand, if they reect dis-
course-level processing diculty, we expect that they
would attenuate or disappear in felicitous contexts.
3. Experiment
3.1. Stimuli
The sentences in (6) and (7) show a sample set of exper-
imental context and target sentences, in which two
factors are manipulated: WORD ORDER (SOV/OSV) × GIVEN-
NESS (New-Given/Given-New).
(6) Kooban-ni (a) Yoshida-san-ga /(b) Kimura-san-ga imasu. Yoshida-Mr-NOM / Kimura-Mr-NOM be
(a) Mr. Yoshida /(b) Mr. Kimura is in the police box.
a. SOV: Yoshida-
kinoo-no yoru Kimura-
yurushita rashii.
night Kimura-Mr-
forgave seem
It seems that Mr. Yoshida forgave Mr. Kimura last night.
b. OSV: Kimura-
kinoo-no yoru Yoshida-
yurushita rashii.
night Yoshida-
forgave seem
Givenness of arguments was manipulated by pre-
referred to either the S or O of the target sentences.
SOV can be used in a wider range of contexts, allowing
given-new or new-given orders. Thus, (7a) did not
violate an information order requirement. OSV, on
the other hand, is a marked word order; thus, it is
used felicitously when O is discourse-given infor-
mation. The lead-in sentence in (6b) made the OSV in
(7b) felicitous because it mentioned Os referent;
thus, the OS order corresponded to the given-new
order. In contrast, the lead-in sentence in (6a) did not
establish a supportive context for an appropriate use
of OSV in (7b).
The NPs of the target sentences were common family
names with no bias for particular thematic roles. Tem-
poral adverbs intervened between the S and the O to
increase the memory cost. These NPs and temporal
adverbs were used four times across items, so any ERP
dierence was not due to lexical dierences between
conditions. Verbs were followed by the modal auxiliary
rashii(seem) to avoid the wrap-up eect at the
V. One hundred twenty sets of experimental stimuli
were distributed into four lists, according to a Latin
square design, so no participant read more than one sen-
tence from the same set. The lists were counterbalanced
across the participants.
3.2. Prediction
The present study is interested in two types of ERP eects,
namely, sustained left anterior negativity (SLAN) and
P600. SLAN has been observed between the ller and
its original position in scrambled sentences (Hagiwara
et al., 2007; Matzke, Mai, Nager, Rüsseler, & Münte, 2002;
Ueno & Kluender, 2003), wh-questions (Fiebach et al.,
2001; Phillips, Kazanina, & Abada, 2005), and post-
nominal relative clauses (King & Kutas, 1995; Müller,
King, & Kutas, 1997). Previous studies have proposed
that it is an index of the working memory load to actively
maintain the ller in working memory (Hagiwara et al.,
2007; King & Kutas, 1995; Kluender & Kutas, 1993;
Matzke et al., 2002; Müller et al., 1997; Phillips et al.,
2005). If this is the case, we expect that SLAN would not
be modulated by givenness (see Discussion). On the
other hand, if it reects a discourse-level processing
cost to accommodate the discourse requirement
encoded by non-canonical word orders, we predict that
a felicitous context ameliorates it, leading to SLANs lack.
P600 has been observed at the gap position of ller-
gap dependency and proposed to reect syntactic pro-
cessing diculty to associate a ller with its original
position (Kaan, Harris, Gibson, & Holcomb, 2000). We
expect no givenness eect if the P600 reects a syntac-
tic integration diculty. However, if it relates to a dis-
course-level processing cost, we predict a P600 in the
infelicitous but not in the felicitous context.
In addition to these ERP eects, we expect a reduced
N400 eect for given NPs at NP1 (S of SOV and O of OSV)
and NP2 (O of SOV and S of OSV) since N400 has been
known to be sensitive to priming eect (Kutas & Feder-
meier, 2011; Kutas & Van Petten, 1988). Although it
forms part of the result of statistical analyses reported
below, this eect is of no interest for the present
3.3. Procedure
Stimuli were presented in the centre of the monitor in
random order, using Presentation ver. 17.0. (Neurobeha-
vioral Systems). At the beginning of each trial, a xation
was presented for 1000 ms, followed by a blank screen
for 300 ms. A lead-in context in (6) was presented in its
entirety for 2000 ms with an inter-stimulus interval (ISI)
of 200 ms. After that, each phrase of the target sentences
was presented for 700 ms with 200 ms ISI. A comprehen-
sion task was administered at the end of each trial to
check whether our participants understood sentences
correctly. Participants were required to answer questions
(e.g. Is it Mr. Yoshida who forgave Mr. Kimura?), by press-
ing the YESor NObutton on the response pad
(Cedrus, RB-740). Prior to the main experiment, twelve
practice trials were completed to familiarise participants
with the experimental procedure.
3.4. Electrophysiological recording
EEGs were recorded from 19 Ag electrodes (QuickAmp,
Brain Products) located at Fp1/2, F3/4, C3/4, P3/4, O1/2,
F7/8, T7/8, P7/8, Fz, Cz, and Pz according to the inter-
national 1020 system (Jasper, 1958). Additional electro-
des were placed below and to the left of the left eye to
monitor horizontal and vertical eye movements. The
online reference was set to the average of all electrodes
and EEGs were re-referenced oine to the average value
of the earlobes. The impedances of all electrodes were
maintained at less than 10 kΩthroughout the exper-
iment. The EEGs were amplied with a bandpass of DC
to 200 Hz, digitised at 1000 Hz.
3.5. Electrophysiological data analysis
Trials with large artefacts (exceeding ±80 µV) were auto-
matically removed from the analysis. Two types of ana-
lyses were conducted following previous studies on the
processing of ller-gap dependency, namely, cumulative
multi-word and single-word analyses (Fiebach et al.,
2001; King & Kutas, 1995; Phillips et al., 2005; Ueno &
Kluender, 2003,2009). The cumulative multi-word analy-
sis examined SLAN from NP1 to NP2. The baseline was
set to 100 ms prior to the onset of NP1. The SLAN was
expected to appear after lexical access to NP1 was com-
pleted (i.e. approximately 300500 ms). Hence, for NP1,
SLANs presence was examined to compare the mean
amplitude of 500900 ms. The time-window of 300
500 ms was also tested to examine a priming eect,
although it is not of interest. For the following two
adverbs, the SLAN was assessed by calculating the
mean amplitude from 100 ms after the onset of each
region to the end of the epoch (100900 ms) (cf. Lau &
Liao, 2018; Phillips et al., 2005).
The single-word analysis examined a P600 at NP2,
which has been associated with the integration cost.
The V region was also examined because some previous
studies reported a P600 for non-canonical word orders.
The baseline was set to 100 ms prior to the onset of
each phrase. The ERPs were quantied by calculating
the mean amplitude for each participant relative to the
baseline using three time windows: 300500 ms, 500
700 ms, and 700900 ms. All EEGs were ltered
oine using a 10 Hz low-pass lter for presentation
All statistical analyses were conducted separately at
the midline (Fz, Cz, and Pz), lateral (F3/4, C3/4, and P3/
4), and temporal (Fp1/2, F7/8, T7/8, P7/8, and O1/2)
arrays. The midline analysis consisted of repeated
measures ANOVAs with three within-group factors:
New/New-Given) × ANTERIORITY. The lateral and tem-
poral analyses involved four within-group factors:
ITY. When an interaction occurred between WO × GIVEN-
NESS, post hoc analyses were conducted to examine the
eect of WO at each level of GIVENNESS and that of
GIVENNESS at each level of WO. When WO and/or GIVEN-
NESS interacted with topographic factors (ANTERIORITY/
HEMISPHERE), post hoc analyses were conducted at each
level of topographic factors (e.g. front, central, and pos-
terior). The Greenhouse-Geisser correction was applied
for all eects involving more than one degree of
freedom (Greenhouse & Geisser, 1959). In these cases,
the original degrees of freedom and the corrected
p-value were reported.
3.6. Participants
Sixteen native Japanese speakers were recruited from
Tohoku University (ve females and 11 males, M= 20.6,
SD = 1.6, range: 19.224.3). All participants were
classied as right-handed based on the Edinburgh hand-
edness inventory (Oldeld, 1971), and three of them had
a left-handed family member. All participants had normal
or corrected-to-normal vision and no history of reading
disability or neurological disorders. This study was
approved by the Ethics Committee of the Graduate
School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University. Written
informed consent was obtained from all participants
prior to the experiment, and they were paid for their
3.7. Results
3.7.1. Behavioural data
The mean accuracy of the comprehension question task
was 87% (S
V: 87.9%, S
V: 87.5%, O
V: 85.2%, O
V: 87.5%). The repeated-
measures ANOVA showed no signicant main eect or
interaction in subject and item analyses (all ps > 0.10).
3.7.2. Electrophysiological data
Multi-word cumulative analysis. Figure 1 shows the
grand average ERP from the onset of NP1 to that of NP2
of the target sentence. Visual inspection of the graph
suggests a striking dierence between OSV at the left
frontal sites, with a larger negativity for O
In the 300500 ms time-window of NP1, the main
eect of GIVENNESS was signicant at all arrays,
showing a larger N400 for the new NPs compared to
the given NPs, due to priming eect (Table 1).
In the 500900 ms time-window of NP1, the inter-
action of WO × GIVENNESS × ANTERIORITY was margin-
ally signicant at the temporal array. The post hoc
analyses revealed that O
V showed a larger
anterior negativity than S
V (Fp1/2: F(1, 15) =
15.41, p< 0.01; F7/8: F(1, 15) = 6.82, p< 0.05), whereas
V did not show a negativity compared to
V. Furthermore, O
V showed a
larger anterior negativity than O
V (Fp1/2: F(1,
15) = 20.91, p< 0.01; F7/8: F(1, 15) = 15.36, p< 0.01),
whereas the two SOV conditions did not dier. The inter-
action of GIVENNESS × ANTERIORITY was also signicant
at the lateral array and marginally signicant at the
midline and temporal arrays, due to a GIVENNESS
eect at the frontal sites (Fz: F(1, 15) = 10.97, p< 0.01;
F3/4: F(1, 15) = 9.83, p< 0.01; C3/4: F(1, 15) = 4.29, p=
0.05; Fp1/2: F(1, 15) = 6.97, p< 0.05; Fp7/8: F(1, 15) =
10.19, p< 0.01).
At ADV1, the three-way interaction of WO × GIVEN-
NESS × ANTERIORITY was signicant at the temporal
array. Post hoc analyses revealed that the anterior nega-
tivity continued to ADV1 in the O
V; O
showed a larger anterior negativity than S
(Fp1/2: F(1, 15) = 3.73, p= 0.07), whereas O
did not. Furthermore, O
V showed a larger
anterior negativity than O
V (Fp1/2: F(1, 15) =
11.57, p< 0.01). The main eect of GIVENNESS was also
signicant, with a larger negativity for the new-given
conditions compared to that of the given-new
At ADV2, the only signicant eect was the main eect
of GIVENNESS, showing a larger negativity for the new-
given conditions than the given-new conditions.
3.7.3. Single-word analyses
The NP2. Figure 2 shows the grand average ERP of NP2
of the target sentence. Visual inspection of the graph
suggests that O
V showed a posterior positivity,
but O
V did not.
In 300500 ms, the main eect of GIVENNESS was sig-
nicant in all arrays, due to attenuated N400 for the
given NPs compared to the new NPs (Table 2).
eect of GIVENNESS interacted with ANTERIORITY at
the temporal array, due to a signicant GIVENNESS
eect except Fp1/2 (F7/8: F(1, 15) = 6.66, p< 0.05; T7/8:
F(1, 15) = 9.95, p< 0.01; P7/8: F(1, 15) = 13.16, p< 0.01;
O1/2: F(1, 15) = 11.10, p< 0.01). The eect of WO ×
GIVENNESS × ANTERIORITY was marginal, which
reected a signicant GIVENNESS eect only at OSV
(P7/8: F(1, 15) = 16.14, p< 0.01; O1/2: F(1, 15) = 13.68, p
< 0.01) and a signicant WO eect only at the new-
given condition (P7/8: F(1, 15) = 6.20, p< 0.05; O1/2: F(1,
15) = 6.83, p< 0.05). These results suggest O
showed an early positivity compared to O
and S
In 500700 ms, the interaction of WO × GIVENNESS ×
ANTERIORITY was signicant at the lateral and temporal
Table 1. Statistical results of the cumulative analysis.
NP1: 300500 ms NP1: 500900 ms Adv1: 100900 ms Adv2: 100900 ms
Midline Lateral Temporal Midline Lateral Temporal Midline Lateral Temporal Midline Lateral Temporal
Word Order (WO) 1.45 1.11 0.66 0.82 0.83 0.01 0.52 1.14 0.65 0.36 0.16 0.02
Givenness (G) 32.31*** 33.56*** 50.74*** 2.67 3.69 3.35
7.35* 6.95* 5.65* 6.64* 6.12* 3.28
WO × Anteriority (Ant) 0.02 0.26 0.34 0.30 1.81 1.55 0.06 1.11 0.74 0.04 1.43 0.86
G × Ant 0.14 0.21 0.53 4.03
10.88*** 3.48
1.34 2.37 0.31 1.45 2.46 0.45
WO × G 1.25 0.98 1.68 0.40 0.29 1.79 0.55 0.75 0.30 1.01 1.32 0.01
WO × G × Ant 0.67 0.03 0.23 2.19 0.56 2.79
1.25 0.65 5.38* 0.28 0.54 1.58
WO × Hemisphere (Hem) 0.88 0.88 0.06 1.37 <0.01 3.09
0.01 3.57
G × Hem 0.04 1.50 0.21 1.45 0.73 1.28 1.15 0.49
WO × Ant × Hem 2.34 1.35 1.20 1.05 1.19 0.39 0.89 0.54
G × Ant × Hem 0.06 0.56 1.44 0.47 2.48 0.63 2.08 1.08
WO × G × Hem 0.27 0.61 0.26 <0.01 1.07 0.03 0.11 <0.01
WO × G × Ant × Hem 0.81 0.18 0.50 0.11 0.51 1.08 0.75 0.77
p< .10, *p< .05, **p< .01, ***p< .005.
Figure 1. Grand average ERPs from NP1 to NP2. (Boldface in the legend indicates discourse-given NPs).
Figure 2. Grand average ERPs at NP2.
arrays and marginally signicant at the midline array.
Post hoc analyses showed a signicant WO eect only
at the new-given condition at the posterior sites (Pz: F
(1, 15) = 5.67, p< 0.05; P3/4: F(1, 15) = 5.26, p< 0.05; P7/
8: F(1, 15) = 5.30, p< 0.05; O1/2: F(1, 15) = 7.19, p< 0.05).
At OSV, the eect of GIVENNESS was signicant or mar-
ginally signicant at the posterior sites (Pz: F(1, 15) =
5.44, p< 0.05; P3/4: F(1, 15) = 5.62, p< 0.05; O1/2: F(1,
15) = 4.02, p= 0.06). These results indicate that O
V showed a posterior positivity compared to S
V and O
In sum, a robust N400 reduction was observed for the
given NPs at 300500 ms. Importantly, O
V eli-
cited an early larger positivity than S
whereas O
V did not elicit any eect compared
to S
The verb. Figure 3 shows the grand average ERP of V of
the target sentence.
In 300500 ms, a signicant main eect of GIVENNESS
was observed in the midline and lateral arrays, showing
that the new-given order enhanced an N400 amplitude
compared to the given-new order (Table 3). GIVENNESS
interacted with ANTERIORITY in all arrays, reecting
that the negativity for the new-given conditions was dis-
tributed at the fronto-central sites (Fz: F(1, 15) = 9.90, p<
0.01; Cz: F(1, 15) = 7.40, p< 0.05; F3/4: F(1, 15) = 9.04, p<
0.01; C3/4: F(1, 15) = 4.46, p< 0.05; F7/8: F(1, 15) = 7.08, p
< 0.05; T7/8: F(1, 15) = 6.91, p< 0.05).
The interaction of GIVENNESS × ANTERIORITY was sig-
nicant at the lateral array and marginally signicant at
the midline array at the 500700 time-window, due to
a GIVENNESS eect at the fronto-central sites (Fz: F(1,
15) = 3.76, p= 0.07; Cz: F(1, 15) = 6.07, p< 0.05; F3/4: F(1,
15) = 3.91, p= 0.06).
In 700900 ms, the main eect of WO was marginally
signicant, showing that OSV elicited a positivity com-
pared to SOV. For the same reason, the interaction of
WO and ANTERIORITY was signicant at the lateral
array, with a signicant eect at P3/4 and a marginally
signicant eect at C3/4 (P3/4: F(1, 15) = 7.67, p< 0.05;
C3/4: F(1, 15) = 4.06, p= 0.06). WO did not interact with
GIVENNESS in any array. However, the planned compari-
son between SOV and OSV conditions showed a positivity
in the new-given condition (Midline: F(1, 15) = 4.80,
p< 0.05; Lateral: F(1, 15) = 6.03, p< 0.05; Temporal:
Lateral: F(1, 15) = 4.72, p< 0.05), but not in the given-
new condition (Midline: F(1, 15) = 0.41, p> 0.10; Lateral:
F(1, 15) = 0.45, p> 0.10; Temporal: F(1, 15) = 0.15, p> 0.10).
Overall, the new-given conditions (S
V and
V) elicited a larger N400 eect compared to
the given-new conditions (S
V and O
V). O
V exhibited a posterior positivity compared
to S
V at the late time-window.
4. Discussion
The present ERP study aimed to elucidate the processing
diculties of syntactic complexity and an infelicitous use
of OSV. The result showed an interaction of word order
and givenness of arguments. O
V elicited SLAN
from O to S compared to S
V. Importantly,
however, O
V did not exhibit SLAN compared
to S
V. At NP2, O
V elicited a signicant
P600 eect compared to S
V. O
V, on
the other hand, did not show a P600 eect compared
to S
V. These results are discussed in the follow-
ing sections.
4.1. SLAN eect
V showed a SLAN eect from O to S, in
keeping with the results of Ueno and Kluender (2003),
which presented OSV without context. However, O
V did not show a comparable SLAN eect. One may
view this dierence between O
V and O
V as attributable to the number of referents pre-
sented to participants by the point of the NP1. In the
Table 2. Statistical results for NP2.
300500 ms 500700 ms 700900 ms
Midline Lateral Temporal Midline Lateral Temporal Midline Lateral Temporal
Word Order (WO) 0.12 0.15 0.28 0.38 0.25 0.51 0.31 0.53 0.12
Givenness (G) 25.48*** 25.25*** 9.25** 1.39 1.33 0.01 0.46 0.30 1.11
WO × Anteriority (Ant) 3.58 5.12* 3.19
1.07 1.41 0.53 0.10 0.28 0.15
G × Ant 0.65 1.07 3.61* 0.16 0.20 0.20 0.21 0.37 0.40
WO × G 2.18 2.10 1.72 3.31
2.95 1.80 1.21 1.18 <0.01
WO × G × Ant 2.00 3.23
4.41* 5.37* 0.48 1.69 3.58*
WO × Hemisphere (Hem) 0.01 0.90 1.64 2.33 0.02 0.20
G × Hem 0.22 1.62 0.36 2.65 0.83 2.43
WO × Ant × Hem 0.08 1.14 0.30 1.33 0.13 0.19
G × Ant × Hem 0.37 1.88 0.22 1.87 0.17 1.60
WO × G × Hem 1.24 0.53 1.18 <0.01 1.10 1.11
WO × G × Ant × Hem 0.02 0.57 0.07 0.17 0.35 0.76
p< .10, *p< .05, **p< .01, ***p< .005.
Figure 3. Grand average ERPs at V.
new-given order, the participants read two NPs (i.e. an
NP in the context and an NP1) by the NP1. In contrast,
only an NP was presented at this position in the given-
new order. If this dierence aects SLANs amplitude,
then we expect only the main eect of GIVENNESS.
This prediction cannot explain an interaction between
The question is why the processing reected by the
SLAN was costly in the infelicitous but not in the felici-
tous context. Previous studies on long-distance depen-
dency formation have argued that the SLAN eect
reects a working memory load of actively storing a
ller, such as a head noun of a relative clause and a
fronted O (Hagiwara et al., 2007; King & Kutas, 1995;
Kluender & Kutas, 1993; Matzke et al., 2002; Müller
et al., 1997; Phillips et al., 2005). If we maintain this func-
tional interpretation, SLANs lack in the felicitous context
implies that a discourse representation ameliorates the
cost of holding a ller in the working memory in some
way. However, this interpretation is challenged when
we examine more carefully SLANs functional signi-
cance. SLAN has also been observed for lexico-semanti-
cally vacuous displaced constituents, such as wer
(who-ACC) in German (Thomas asks himself, who-ACC on
Tuesday afternoon after the accident the doctor ___
called has, Fiebach et al., 2002). Kluender and Kutas
(1993) observed a larger SLAN eect for a matrix wh-
question (Who have you forgotten ?) than a yes-no
question (Have you forgotten ?), although they did
not conduct a cumulative analysis. Furthermore,
Wagers and Phillips (2009,2014) argued that the parser
actively maintains a syntactic category of a ller (e.g.
NP) until encountering a gap, while it releases semanti-
cally detailed information from the working memory
and reactivates it after receiving direct evidence for the
location of a gap. Given these ndings, a straightforward
interpretation of what SLAN reects is the active main-
tenance of a llers syntactic category rather than
lexico-semantic information. In this interpretation, it is
not clear how discourse-level information alleviates the
memory cost of holding a llers syntactic category
unless a linking hypothesis exists.
Alternatively, SLAN may reect the process of manip-
ulating a discourse representation in memory. In O
V, the processing cost should increase when
encountering a discourse-new O because it has no refer-
ent in the preceding context, even though scrambling
presupposes a shared referent in a discourse that directly
or implicitly refers to an O. Accordingly, participants had
to accommodate an unsatised presupposition to build a
coherent discourse representation, probably by invent-
ing an additional implicit context that linked the
context and the target sentence. This process may be
reected by a SLAN observed in O
V. The
SLAN eect could be similar to the S(L)AN eect elicited
by denite NPs and pronoun in the context with two
salient referents, because the use of these NPs also pre-
supposes a salient referent to which a speaker intends to
refer (David had asked the two girls to clean up their
room before lunchtime. But one of the girls had stayed
in bed all morning, and the other had been on the
phone all the time. David told the girl …”, Nieuwland
& Van Berkum, 2006; Van Berkum, 2004; Van Berkum,
Brown, & Hagoort, 1999; van Berkum et al.2003; Van
Berkum, Zwitserlood, Bastiaansen, Brown, & Hagoort,
2004; Van Berkum, Koornneef, Otten, & Nieuwland,
In O
V, on the other hand, the manipu-
lating process is not necessary because the discourse
has already introduced a referent that refers to an O of
OSV, leading to SLANs lack in the felicitous context.
To date, the extent to which this view can account for pre-
vious ndings of SLAN eects remains unclear. To our
knowledge, no ERP experiment examines the interaction
of the processing of post-nominal relative clauses by
context. However, given that a behavioural study showed
that their processing was largely alleviated by the felicitous
context (Roland, Mauner, OMeara, & Yun, 2012), SLAN could
decrease in amplitude due to a felicitous context. Another
Table 3. Statistical results for V.
300500 ms 500700 ms 700900 ms
Midline Lateral Temporal Midline Lateral Temporal Midline Lateral Temporal
Word Order (WO) 0.99 0.97 0.69 0.96 1.11 0.65 3.77
Givenness (G) 6.16* 4.80* 2.98 4.04
2.96 2.13 2.40 1.15 1.50
WO × Anteriority (Ant) 0.45 0.80 0.20 1.00 2.62 0.84 0.99 4.06* 1.55
G × Ant 6.08* 6.36** 3.19* 3.50
4.12* 0.92 4.95* 8.52** 2.27
WO × G 0.05 0.02 <0.01 0.11 0.02 <0.01 1.65 1.29 1.04
WO × G × Ant 1.00 0.43 0.02 0.75 0.02 0.21 0.85 0.27 0.15
WO × Hemisphere (Hem) <0.01 0.93 0.09 1.05 0.88 0.80
G × Hem 0.81 0.91 0.02 0.68 0.10 0.17
WO × Ant × Hem 1.19 0.53 1.38 0.68 1.07 1.36
G × Ant × Hem 0.04 2.70* 0.07 1.87 0.03 1.50
WO × G × Hem 0.13 1.09 1.29 <0.01 0.59 <0.01
WO × G × Ant × Hem 0.19 1.67 0.21 1.36 0.05 1.12
p< .10, *p< .05, **p< .01, ***p< .005.
observation related to the present view is an LAN eect in
response to the matrix question compared to the yes-no
question (Kluender & Kutas, 1993). Since wh-questions,
such as What did Mary read?, presuppose the existence
of an entity that Mary read (e.g. Postal, 1971;Karttunen&
Peters, 1976), a wh-question introduced without context
requires receivers to accommodate this presupposition.
Accordingly, the LAN eect in response to a wh-question
(Kluender & Kutas, 1993) could be accounted for in terms
of contextual factors. However, more empirical data needs
to be accumulated to test this view.
4.2. P600 eect at the NP2
At NP2, O
V elicited a larger posterior positivity
compared to S
, whereas no indication exists
of a positivity in response to O
V. The former
result is consistent with previous studies on scrambling
in Japanese (Hagiwara et al., 2007; Koso, Hagiwara, &
Soshi, 2007; Ueno & Kluender, 2003), as well as those
on ller-gap dependency in other languages (Fiebach
et al., 2001; Fiebach et al., 2005; Kaan et al., 2000; Phillips
et al., 2005; Rösler et al., 1998; Yasunaga et al., 2015; Yano
et al., 2017, Yano, iikuni, et al., 2017). The positivity for
V began to diverge from S
V earlier
than typical P600 eects. This early peak latency may
be due to the priming eect. When comparing O
V and S
V, the critical noun was a dis-
course-given NP. Accordingly, the repetition priming
facilitated lexico-semantic processing and the sub-
sequent process started earlier. This possibility was sup-
ported by the observation that the peak latency of P600
was signicantly earlier for the given NPs than the new
NPs (Midline: F(1, 15) = 5.24, p< 0.05; Lateral: F(1, 15)
= 6.01, p< 0.05; Temporal: F(1, 15) = 2.36, p= 0.14).
Importantly, O
V did not show a larger positivity
even in the typical P600 time-window. This result of the
WO by context interaction is consistent with the behav-
ioural result by Koizumi and Imamura (2017).
First, it is less likely that the P600 reects the revision
cost of a syntactic structure. Because an accusative case
was attached to the displaced O of experimental sen-
tences, no S-O ambiguity existed in the present exper-
iment. Furthermore, SLANs presence for OSV in the
infelicitous context suggests that the parser noticed a
scrambled structure while processing an adverbial
phrase under either interpretation of SLAN discussed
above. Thus, the P600 is not the same as the P600 that
has been observed for garden-path sentences (Kaan &
Swaab, 2003a,2003b).
Second, Kaan et al. (2000) proposed that P600 reects
a syntactic integration diculty. If we hold this view, the
lack of the P600 eect suggests the facilitated syntactic
integration of a ller and its gap. However, a question
arises as to why the discourse givenness of an O
reduces a P600 eect at the NP2. One possibility is that
the syntactic integration diculty might correlate with
memory cost, because several studies failed to observe
a P600 eect for scrambled sentences in cases in which
the distance between a ller and its gap is relatively
short. For instance, Hagiwara et al. (2007) compared
the processing of middle scrambling with that of long
scrambling, using the sentences in (8) below. They
found that long scrambling elicited a P600 eect com-
pared to the canonical condition, whereas middle scram-
bling did not (see also Koizumi & Yasunaga, 2017).
Presumably, when the parser consumes less memory
cost, it needs the less syntactic integration cost. In the
present case, since a discourse-given O of OSV did not
impose a memory pressure on the parser, the parser
can integrate the ller with the gap relatively easily. On
the other hand, a discourse-new O was dicult to inte-
grate with the gap because it incurred a memory cost
evidenced by SLAN. However, this conjecture is not con-
sistent with the result of Fiebach et al. (2002) and Phillips
et al. (2005), who reported a P600 eect, irrespective of
the length between a ller and a gap.
(8) a. Canonical condition:
shacho-wa hisho-ga bengoshi-
sagashiteiru-to itta.
At the meeting, the president said that the secretary was looking for the
b. Middle-scrambled condition:
shacho-wa bengoshi-
hisho-ga t
sagashiteiru-to itta.
lawyer-ACC secretary-
c. Long-scrambled condition:
shacho-wa hisho-ga t
sagashiteiru-to itta.
lawyer-ACC president-
was.looking.for said.
Alternatively, the P600 may reect a conict resol-
ution of dierent information types. When scrambled
sentences were not presented with a supportive
context, the parser should have faced a conict
between syntactic and information structures. That is,
syntactic information signals that the parser must recon-
struct a ller at the derived position into the original pos-
ition to receive a thematic role. However, the information
structure does not validate that the ller is located at the
topic position because scrambling yields an ill-motivated
new-given order. An increasing number of recent ERP
studies have argued that the P600 is not a manifestation
of pure syntactic processing diculty (e.g. Bornkessel-
Schlesewsky & Schlesewsky, 2008; Brouwer, Crocker,
Venhuizen, & Hoeks, 2016; Brouwer, Fitz, & Hoeks, 2012;
Kuperberg, 2007; Vissers, Chwilla, & Kolk, 2006). Instead,
it indexes a process of integrating several types of infor-
mation, such as syntax and semantics. Thus, a P600 likely
reects the resolution of a conict between syntactic
structure and information structure encoded by OSV.
However, the issue of whether the same process
underlies a P600 eect in other languages is not clear,
since, for example, the pre-gap region of relative
clauses in English is a verb, where dierent types of pro-
cesses should also be performed, as discussed below.
4.3. P600 eect at the V
At the V, a larger P600 eect was observed for OSV com-
pared to SOV in the new-given condition. The P600 at the
V has been observed in previous studies (Hagiwara et al.,
2007; Weckerly & Kutas, 1999). Phillips et al. (2005) pro-
posed that the P600 at the V reects the syntactic and
semantic operations involved in conrming the compat-
ibility of the ller and the verb for thematic role assign-
ment, and compositionally interpreting the verb and its
arguments(Phillips et al., 2005, p. 425). Because this
process should be necessary at the V of the OSV in Japa-
nese, it explains a P600 eect for OSV in the new-given
context. However, it remains unclear why OSV in the
given-new context did not elicit a similar P600 at V.
The P600 eect in the present experiment contradicts
with the previous ERP experiment of Japanese scram-
bling that reported a larger anterior negativity for OSV
than SOV at the V (Ueno & Kluender, 2003). However,
this AN eect reects a wrap-up process that has often
reported in ERP experiments (Friederici & Frisch, 2000;
Osterhout, 1997). In the present study, an auxiliary verb
was placed at the sentences end to avoid the wrap-up
negativity at the V. As expected, the wrap-up negativity
was observed at the sentencesnal region, although
no signicant eect existed between conditions.
5. Conclusion
The present study explored the interaction of syntactic
complexity of scrambling and discourse factors during
Japanese sentence comprehension. The result of the
ERP experiment clearly demonstrated that the felicitous
use of scrambling alleviated ller-gap dependency for-
mation, as evidenced by a signicant reduction of SLAN
and P600 eects. This nding suggests that the processing
diculty that has been observed for non-canonical word
orders is largely associated with discourse factors, such as
the alignment of discourse-old and discourse-new NPs.
Nevertheless, further investigation is necessary to clarify
the functional signicance of SLAN and P600.
1. They also observed a P600 again at the adverb (toto
nally). The successive P600 eects may be due to a tem-
poral ambiguity of an original position of the ller. If the
parser actively attempts to ll a gap (Active Filler Strat-
egy, Frazier & Clifton, 1989), it should perform a gap-
lling parsing at S rst and do so again at the adverb
after detecting a nal gap position.
2. One might wonder whether repeating proper names in
the context and the target sentences sounds unnatural
because they are discourse-old information. However,
Tsuchiya, Yoshimura, and Nakayama (2015) reported
that native Japanese speakers overwhelmingly preferred
the use of referential nouns (e.g. denite NPs) to pro-
nouns in the narrative telling task, unlike in English, in
which pronouns are preferred to refer to a discourse-
old referent. Hence, the repeated use of proper names
is not problematic in Japanese. However, because the
preceding context renders an NP a topic of a discourse,
marking it with a nominative or accusative case instead
of a topic marker (-wa) is not frequent in Japanese.
However, Hirotani and Schumacher (2011) did not
observe any dierence between the nominative and
the topic S when it was mentioned in the preceding
context. Thus, it is unlikely that this aected our results.
Furthermore, the use of a topic marker -wafor dis-
course-given NPs is problematic for the purpose of the
current experiment because this induces an S-O ambigu-
ity. Assuming that the native Japanese speakers disam-
biguate ambiguous sentences into canonical sentences,
V (O-TOP S-NOM V) should be temporarily
analysed as a canonical SOV sentence until encountering
S. Accordingly, such a sentence should not elicit a SLAN
eect, making it impossible to examine how it is aected
by discourse-level information.
3. In single-word analyses, the ERP of the baseline time
window was analysed to ensure that ERP dierence
was not induced as a result of the baseline correction
procedure. The results reveal no signicant main eect
or interaction at the baseline time window when the
ERPs were time-locked to the onset of the previous
4. An important caveat is that Nieuwland, Petersson, and
Van Berkum (2007) found an increased activation for a
referentially ambiguous pronoun at the medial prefron-
tal region, which is dierent from the left inferior
frontal gyrus that activates during the processing of
non-canonical word orders (Grewe et al., 2007; Kim
et al., 2009; Kinno, Kawamura, Shioda, & Sakai, 2008).
5. The mean peak latency of the positivity was calculated for
each channel with the ERP Measurement Tool of ERPLAB
(Lopez-Calderon & Luck, 2014)bynding a latency in
which the greatest positivity was observed between 300
and 900 ms of NP2. The statistical analyses were con-
ducted in the same way as reported in Section 3.5.
We thank anonymous reviewers and the editor for their insight-
ful comments. We are also grateful to Mineharu Nakayama,
Ellen Lau, Hajime Ono, and Shin Fukuda for their helpful
comments. This study was supported by JSPS KAKENHI
(#15H02603, PI: Masatoshi Koizumi), a Grant-in-Aid for JSPS
Research Fellows (#13J04854, PI: Masataka Yano) and Kyushu
University Wakaba Project (#30203, PI: Masataka Yano).
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
This study was supported by the JSPS KAKENHI (#15H02603, PI:
Masatoshi Koizumi), a Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Research Fellows
(#13J04854, PI: Masataka Yano) and Kyushu University
Wakaba Project (#30203, PI: Masataka Yano).
Masataka Yano
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The present study tested whether the D-linked object moves from its thematic position over the subject or it originates where it appears in non-canonical sentences in Japanese. To this aim, we conducted acceptability judgment experiments that employed island effects as a diagnosis of movement and assessed whether the D-linking status of an extracted object of non-canonical OSV sentences escaped island effects. The results revealed that D-linking did not improve an acceptability of island violations, and therefore, a D-linked object of OSV does have a status of a moved constituent. The present result contributes to an understanding of a relationship between syntactic representation and processing of filler-gap dependencies. According to recent event-related brain potential (ERP) studies, non-canonical sentences with a filler-gap dependency elicits a P600 effect when there is no felicitous context, but they do not reveal any effect when the filler is discourse-old information. The present result is inconsistent with the interpretation that the D-linked filler does not have a status of a moved constituent, thereby resulting in no filler-gap dependency formation in Japanese sentence comprehension. Instead, the present result is consistent with the view that the P600 effect is not a neural cost of the reconstruction but is elicited by other cognitive processes, such as the resolution of the unsatisfied presupposition encoded by scrambling.
Full-text available
In many languages with flexible word orders, canonical word order has a processing advantage over non-canonical word orders. This observation suggests that it is more costly for the parser to represent syntactically complex sentences because of filler-gap dependency formation. Alternatively, this phenomenon may relate to pragmatic factors because most previous studies have presented non-canonical word orders without felicitous context, which violates participants’ expectations regarding the information structure encoded by non-canonical word orders. The present study conducted an event-related potential experiment to examine the locus of the processing difficulty associated with non-canonical word orders in Japanese by manipulating word order (SOV vs. OSV) and the givenness of arguments. The non-canonical OSV sentence has been used felicitously when the O was mentioned in a prior discourse to make the discourse more coherent. The experiment’s results showed that OSV elicited a sustained left anterior negativity from O to S and a P600 effect at the S position compared to that of SOV in the infelicitous but not in the felicitous context. This result suggests that the processing difficulty of non-canonical word orders in Japanese is alleviated by discourse factors, such as the alignment of discourse-old and discourse-new NPs. [Open Access]
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In many languages with flexible word order, transitive sentences in which the subject precedes the object have been reported to have a processing advantage during sentence comprehension compared with those in which the subject follows the object. This observation brings up the question of why this subject-before-object (SO) order should be preferred in sentence comprehension, together with the related empirical question of whether this preference is universal across all human languages. In the present ERP study, we address these two issues by examining the word order preference in Kaqchikel, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala, in which the verb-object-subject (VOS) order is the syntactically basic word order. In the experiment, native speakers of Kaqchikel were auditorily presented four types of sentences (VOS, VSO, SVO, and OVS), followed by a picture that either matched or mismatched an event described in a preceding sentence, while their EEGs were recorded. The result of the ERP experiment showed that VSO elicited a larger positive component, called a P600 effect, in the comparison to the canonical word order, VOS in the third region (i.e., O of VSO versus S of VOS), in which the filler-gap dependency was supposed to be established in VSO sentences. Furthermore, SVO also exhibited a P600 effect compared to VOS in the third region, reflecting an increased syntactic processing cost. These results indicate that the syntactically basic word order, VOS, requires a lower amount of cognitive resources to process than other possible word orders in Kaqchikel. Based on these results, we argue that the SO preference in sentence comprehension reported in previous studies may not reflect a universal aspect of human languages; rather, processing preference may be language-specific to some extent, reflecting syntactic differences in individual languages.
The electroencephalogram (EEG) provides a non-invasive, minimally restrictive, and relatively low-cost measure of mesoscale brain dynamics with high temporal resolution. Although signals recorded in parallel by multiple, near-adjacent EEG scalp electrode channels are highly-correlated and combine signals from many different sources, biological and non-biological, independent component analysis (ICA) has been shown to isolate the various source generator processes underlying those recordings. Independent components (IC) found by ICA decomposition can be manually inspected, selected, and interpreted, but doing so requires both time and practice as ICs have no order or intrinsic interpretations and therefore require further study of their properties. Alternatively, sufficiently-accurate automated IC classifiers can be used to classify ICs into broad source categories, speeding the analysis of EEG studies with many subjects and enabling the use of ICA decomposition in near-real-time applications. While many such classifiers have been proposed recently, this work presents the ICLabel project comprised of (1) the ICLabel dataset containing spatiotemporal measures for over 200,000 ICs from more than 6000 EEG recordings and matching component labels for over 6000 of those ICs, all using common average reference, (2) the ICLabel website for collecting crowdsourced IC labels and educating EEG researchers and practitioners about IC interpretation, and (3) the automated ICLabel classifier, freely available for MATLAB. The ICLabel classifier improves upon existing methods in two ways: by improving the accuracy of the computed label estimates and by enhancing its computational efficiency. The classifier outperforms or performs comparably to the previous best publicly available automated IC component classification method for all measured IC categories while computing those labels ten times faster than that classifier as shown by a systematic comparison against other publicly available EEG IC classifiers.
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