An ERP study of kind-denoting nouns in subject position in Brazilian Portuguese

Aniela Improta França, Cagy Mauricio, Antonio Fernando Catelli Infantosi

Abstract


Resumo: A referencialidade é um tópico que sempre renova o interesse da linguística teórica e experimental. Isso porque as referências são recursos fundamentais das línguas naturais que estabelecem uma relação entre a língua no cérebro e as coisas do mundo lá fora. Este experimento investiga duas condições referentes a mecanismos de referencialidade: uma relaciona-se a um NP não específico na posição do sujeito e a outra se relaciona a um NP que denota tipo influenciado por um contexto especial de Conhecimento do Mundo. A comparação entre as duas condições nas suas versões congruente e incongruente revelou que a Condição do Conhecimento do Mundo apresentou um ERP (N400) com latência mais curta. Já que as sentenças são percebidas em uma ordem linear e que o sujeito em português (língua SVO) vem na frente, aqui se propõe que o acesso ao sujeito pragmaticamente saliente na sua posição sentença-inicial abre, logo de início, uma moldura pragmática e pode restringir a seleção no verbo-complemento, fazendo com que o merge verbo-objeto se dê de forma mais rápida. Isso pode explicar porque o N400 relacionado aos estímulos do Conhecimento do Mundo apareceu mais cedo do que na Condição de Controle. Adicionalmente, encontrouse um ERP positivo em torno dos 600 ms apenas presente nos estímulos da Condição de Conhecimento do Mundo e ausente na Condição de Controle. A interpretação deste achado é que o pleno acesso ao conteúdo pragmático que está no sujeito só ocorre após o merge do complemento ao verbo.

Palavras-chave: hipótese sintaxe-primeiro; pragmática no processamento de sentenças; extração de potenciais relacionados a evento; N400-P600.

Abstract: Referring is a permanently hot topic in theoretical and experimental linguistics since references establish the fundamental relationship between parts of language in the brain and things out there in the world. This experiment investigates two conditions pertaining to reference mechanisms: one relates to a generic NP in the subject position and the other to an NP that is influenced by a special World Knowledge context. The comparison between the two conditions in their congruous and incongruous versions depicts a shorter latency for the N400 ERPs of the World Knowledge stimuli. Since linguistic input gradually reaches the reader from left to right, we propose that the access to a pragmatically salient subject in its sentence-initial position, by opening a window into World Knowledge, may restrict selections in the verb-complement merge more speedily than pragmatically unmarked subjects. This may explain why the N400 related to the World Knowledge stimuli appeared earlier than that of the Control Condition. Additionally, we found a later positive ERP around the 600ms only present in the World Knowledge stimuli and absent in the Control condition. The interpretation of this finding is that full access to the pragmatic contents of the subject only takes place after the verb complement merge.

Keywords: syntax-first hypothesis; pragmatics in sentence processing; event-related brain potentials; N400-P600.


Keywords


syntax-first hypothesis; pragmatics in sentence processing; event-related brain potentials; N400-P600.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17851/2237-2083.25.3.1433-1461

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