Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

Bhuvana Narasimhan

Second Advisor

Laura Michaelis-Cummings

Third Advisor

Albert Kim

Abstract

This study attempts a novel identification of event-related brain potential (ERP) components of anticipatory processing of semantic information during online language comprehension directly in the pre-target EEG, as well as the directionality of these components (i.e., whether the component's amplitude either increases or decreases with increased semantic constraint). I have done this by manipulating pre-target sentential context constraint across three cloze probability conditions (`high', `mid', `low' - Taylor, 1953), and tested for any relation between the pre-target EEG and post-target N400 effects that resulted from the cloze manipulations. Following repeated measures ANOVA and paired t-tests, statistically significant differences were in fact found between the conditions in the pre-target region, and these differences were ordered inversely of cloze probability (i.e., as cloze probability increased, effect size decreased). These results support the increasingly accepted view that the language processor is actively engaged in the predictive processing of future elements of an utterance. Moreover, these data also suggest that semantic information may be processed more rapidly than was originally thought to be the case. Finally, implications for interpreting the N400 effect are discussed.

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