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Neural correlates of plausibility effects on temporary syntactic ambiguities (talk recording available)
Dr. Dirk B. den Ouden
Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 01:00pm - 02:00pm
University of South Carolina, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Temporary syntactic ambiguities in garden-path sentences offer a window onto the interaction between algorithmic syntactic processes, heuristics and semantic/pragmatic processes in sentence parsing. In this talk, I will discuss fMRI studies aimed at teasing apart factors that influence the online parse in sentences such as While the man hunted the deer ran into the woods. Listeners initially prefer a late-closure interpretation (the man hunted the deer) in such sentences, but the extent to which this is retained is influenced by the immediate plausibility of the verb-argument combination, as well as by the more global plausibility of the event that is described in the sentence. Sentences in which the (syntactically erroneous) garden-path interpretation is plausible are expected to show the greatest neural activation in areas associated with thematic role association, while sentences in which this interpretation is made implausible possibly require less effort to restructure, but are expected to induce a response more closely associated with general contextual processing, reflecting a general effort in making sense of the sentence as a whole.