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Processing of Japanese Cleft Constructions in Context: Evidence from Event-Related Brain Potentials


Numerous studies have found “subject gap preference” in relative clauses and cleft constructions in English, French, and other languages. In contrast, previous studies have reported “object gap preference” in cleft constructions in Japanese. However, the effect of integrating a filler and its gap may be influenced by the effect of transitional probabilities, so previous studies confounded these two factors. This study explores processing asymmetries in Japanese cleft constructions by conducting an event-related brain potential experiment by controlling transitional probabilities. The results demonstrate that the subject gap preference in Japanese is well aligned with that observed in other languages, suggesting that subject gap preference is a universal aspect of language comprehension.

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  1. A self-paced reading time experiment was also conducted with the same materials as the ERP experiment. However, no detectable difference was observed between SCs and OCs in any region. Hence, we do not present the details of these results.


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This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (\(\#25\!{\varvec{\cdot }}\!4854\), PI: Masataka Yano) and a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A) (\(\#25244018\), PI: Tsutomu Sakamoto) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. We are grateful to anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. We also would like to thank Maiko Yano and Kojin Kuwahara for assistance with data collection and analysis.

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Correspondence to Masataka Yano.

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Yano, M., Tateyama, Y. & Sakamoto, T. Processing of Japanese Cleft Constructions in Context: Evidence from Event-Related Brain Potentials. J Psycholinguist Res 44, 277–286 (2015).

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  • Japanese
  • Sentence comprehension
  • Cleft constructions
  • Gap-filler dependency
  • Event-related brain potentials (ERPs)