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Poster D34, Thursday, November 9, 6:15 – 7:30 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Verb constraint and semantic integration

Ben Rickles1,3, Gwen A. Frishkoff2;1Georgia State University, 2University of Oregon, 3University of Maryland

Despite a long history of experimentation using behavioral and brain imaging methods, questions remain about the processes readers use to first access and then combine or, integrate, single word meanings to form higher-level semantic structures. Using event-related potential technique, we showed participants a series of four words, asking them whether the words combined to form a possible event. We maintained the order of the thematic roles (Agent, Action, Patient, Goal), while manipulating both the semantic congruity between the verb and final noun (Congruity), and local association between nouns (Relatedness) in an attempt to separate processes of structure building from retrieval-based processing. A frontal negativity peaking roughly 450 milliseconds (ms) after the Goal was modulated by Congruity, while contrary to our expectations, a posterior positivity, peaking between 500-600 ms, was seen to increase only when final words were both congruent and related. In a further examination of differences between verbs, the frontal effect was stronger for Goal words following the verb "gave" , while the posterior effect was stronger for Goal words following the verb "put". We explain the effects in terms of how the verb constrains the processes involved in semantic structure building during reading.

Topic Area: Meaning: Combinatorial Semantics

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