ERP Negativities During Syntactic Processing of Written Words

  • T. F. Münte
  • H.-J. Heinze


The observation of a negative component in the event-related potential (ERP) in response to semantic anomalies by Kutas and Hillyard in 1980 represents a hallmark in the use of electrophysiological measures for the investigation of language processing. Subsequent work showed that this negative component can be reliably recorded with an onset latency of about 250 msec and a peak latency of 400 msec, thus leading to the label N400. Most of the research of the past decade has been devoted to the delineation of the factors that influence the N400. This line of experiments was reviewed recently by Kutas and Van Petten (1988), Halgren (1990), and Fischler (1990). It is beyond the scope of this chapter to summarize all the factors that have been investigated in relation to the N400. It should suffice to say that it varies reliably as a function of manipulations on the semantic level. However, the endeavor of language research by means of event-related potentials would be meaningless, if it was centered around components rather than processes. In this respect a cross-fertilization from the current theories of psycholinguis-tics is needed.


Lexical Decision Critical Word Difference Wave Semantic Task Syntactic Processing 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

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  • T. F. Münte
  • H.-J. Heinze

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