Lexical integration: Sequential effects of syntactic and semantic information
Both semantic and syntactic context constraints can influence word processing at the level of lexical integration. In event-related brain potentials (ERPs), semantic integration is reflected by a negativity around 400 msec (N400), whereas phrase structure assignment and syntactic integration are assumed to be reflected by an early left anterior negativity and a late positivity (P600), respectively. An ERP study is presented in which participants read different types of sentences whose terminal verb was either congruent with the preceding context or incongruent due to a phrase structure violation, a semantic violation, or both. The main finding was that only the pure semantic violation condition, but not the combined semantic and syntactic violation condition, elicited a large N400. The two conditions containing phrase structure violations were predominantly characterized by a P600. Both semantic violation conditions, moreover, displayed a late negativity around 700 msec that overlapped with the P600 in the double violation condition. The absence of an N400 effect for elements that are syntactically as well as semantically incongruent with prior context suggests an early influence of phrase structure information on processes of lexical-semantic integration. The present data are discussed in comparison to previous ERP findings, and a new view of lexical integration processes is proposed.