Poster F71, Tuesday, March 28, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
The spatio-temporal dynamics of language processing: combining computational linguistics and RSA with MEG data
Barry Devereux1, Billi Randall1, William Marslen-Wilson1, Lorraine Tyler1; 1University of Cambridge
Understanding spoken sentences involves the incremental integration of the spoken words into a coherent representation of the utterance’s structure and meaning. A number of factors have been proposed to influence the ease with which words can be integrated into the unfolding representation, including the syntactic complexity of the sentence and probabilistic lexical knowledge about the kinds of structures words tend to be used in. Reflecting these separate accounts, previous neurocognitive studies have often either manipulated syntactic complexity whilst eliminating lexical influences, or have manipulated lexical properties only in the context of simple grammatical structures. In this MEG study, we investigate how lexically-driven expectations and syntactic complexity interact over time by analysing how corpus-derived statistical models of lexico-syntactic information influence the multivariate spatiotemporal dynamics of long-distance structure building in the brain. Participants listened to sentences where a relative clause construction created a syntactically complex long-distance dependency. We manipulated the lexico-syntactic expectations associated with the verbs in the sentences, such that the complex syntactic structure was either expected or unexpected depending on properties of the verbs. In source-space MEG RSA analyses, we found early sensitivity to lexico-syntactic access in MTG, as well as later sensitivity to the unexpected long-distance dependency structures in bilateral STG and MTG. These results are important in demonstrating how specific lexical knowledge about verbs – modelled using corpus data – interacts with complex syntactic processing during spoken language comprehension, yielding a detailed picture of processes of incremental integration in sentence processing.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Syntax