Time-Course of Semantic Composition: The Case of Aspectual Coercion
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We examine the time-course of semantic structure formation during real-time sentence comprehension. We do this through the lens of aspectual coercion, a semantic combinatorial operation that lacks morpho-syntactic reflections, yet is indispensable for sentence interpretation. We describe two experiments. Experiment 1 replicates the results of a previously published study (Piñango, Zurif, & Jackendoff, Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 28(4), 395–414 1999) showing that the cost of implementing aspectual coercion is detectable as late as 250 ms after the operation is licensed. Experiment 2 expands the window of observation by revealing that the implementation of aspectual coercion is not detectable immediately upon its being licensed, that is, at the point at which the syntactic representation is assumed to be fully formed. These findings suggest a dissociation in the integration of information, in which semantic composition—even mandatory and automatic semantic composition—takes time to develop after it is syntactically licensed to do so.
KeywordsTime-course of integration Semantic processing Aspectual coercion Type shifting Syntax-semantics correspondence
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