Poster F55, Tuesday, March 27, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
Cortical tracking of linguistic phrases: bottom-up and top-down effects of prosodic processing
Anastasia Glushko1,2, Max Wolpert1,2, Alessandro Tavano3, David Poeppel3, Karsten Steinhauer1,2; 1McGill University, 2The Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music, 3Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics
Cortical tracking of linguistic phrases has recently been demonstrated using magneto- and electroencephalography (e.g., Ding et al., 2016; Ding et al., 2017). However, the relative contributions of prosodic (bottom-up, overt or top-down, covert) and syntactic processing to the reported increases in cortical activity at phrasal rate remain unclear. We hypothesized that these neurophysiological effects can be largely attributed to covert (top-down) prosodic chunking (see e.g., Steinhauer & Friederici, 2001; Nozaradan et al., 2011). In our EEG study, participants listened to German four-word sentences presented in blocks of 12 with no pauses between words. Each word was 250 ms long, with syntactic phrase boundaries appearing at the rate of 2 Hz (ex.: “Your song | sounds good”). Within each block, sentences followed a specific prosodic contour: with prosodic cues (sound intensity and pitch) (a) flattened (“No Prosody”); (b) fluctuating at the rate of syntactic phrase boundaries (“Matching”; 2Hz); or (c) fluctuating at the rate different from the rate of syntactic phrase boundaries (“Mismatching”; 1Hz). To test top-down effects of covert prosody processing, we additionally presented participants with “No Prosody” sentences asking them to mentally map either the “Matching” or the “Mismatching” intonation onto them. We found that processing of both overt and covert prosodic cues attenuated the effects of syntactic phrase processing, making them (1) more pronounced compared to the “No Prosody” condition if the prosodic contour of the sentence aligned with syntactic phrasing (“Matching”), and (2) less pronounced if the two did not align (“Mismatching”).
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Syntax