Definiteness Marking Shows Late Effects during Discourse Processing: Evidence from ERPs

  • Petra B. Schumacher
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5847)


This paper investigates the processing of indefinite and definite noun phrases in discourse. It presents data from an Event-Related brain Potential (ERP) study that contrasted definite and indefinite noun phrases following three distinct context sentences. The data suggest that coherence considerations influence early processing stages, while morphological definiteness features only affect later stages during reference resolution. In addition, the processing of a definite determiner (prior to encountering the subsequent noun) exerts processing demands, supporting the functional contribution of definiteness marking. Supplementary data from a plausibility questionnaire and two completion studies are also presented. The findings are discussed with respect to a neurocognitive model of reference resolution.


Definiteness Referential processing Event-related brain potentials Inferences 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petra B. Schumacher
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English and LinguisticsUniversity of MainzMainzGermany

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