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Slide Slam I13

Possibly Predictive Potentials: an ERP Investigation into Word Form Preactivation

Slide Slam Session I, Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 5:30 - 7:30 pm PDT Log In to set Timezone

Emily Provenzano1, Katherine DeLong1, Marta Kutas1; 1University of California, San Diego

While evidence continues to accrue for word form prediction during sentence processing, potential processing limits on lexical preactivation are still being established. Some prediction-by-production accounts propose that during language comprehension, word form prediction occurs via the production system, by which semantic concepts are activated, followed by lexeme selection, and subsequent prediction of anticipated upcoming word forms. Positioned at the end stage of this processing sequence, word form preactivation would be subject to available processing time and would critically hinge on preceding semantic preactivation. To test this proposal, we developed an event-related brain potential paradigm that relied on alliterative low constraint sentences continued by either alliteration-consistent or inconsistent critical words of equally low expectancy. Sentences like, ‘Becky’s bewildered beagle barked before beggars/workers entered the tunnel’ were presented at a serial visual presentation rate of 2 words/s while brainwaves were recorded. A significant N400 amplitude reduction (300-500 ms) was observed to alliterative relative to non-alliterative continuations. These results suggest that even in the absence of strong semantic predictions, readers are able to preactivate form features of likely upcoming words during online sentence comprehension at reading rates faster than some prediction-by-production proposals would allow (e.g., Ito et al., 2016; Pickering & Gambi, 2013).

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