The role of prominence in Spanish sentence comprehension: An ERP study

Brain Lang. 2015 Nov;150:22-35. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2015.08.001. Epub 2015 Aug 25.


Prominence is the hierarchical relation among arguments that allows us to understand 'Who did what to whom' in a sentence. The present study aimed to provide evidence about the role of prominence information for the incremental interpretation of arguments in Spanish. We investigated the time course of neural correlates associated to the comprehension of sentences that require a reversal of argument prominence hierarchization. We also studied how the amount of available prominence information may affect the incremental build-up of verbal expectations. Results of the ERP data revealed that at the disambiguating verb region, object-initial sentences (only one argument available) elicited a centro-parietal negativity with a peak at 400 ms post-onset. Subject-initial sentences (two arguments available) yielded a broadly distributed positivity at around 650 ms. This dissociation suggests that argument interpretation may depend on their morphosyntactic features, and also on the amount of prominence information available before the verb is encountered.

Keywords: EEG; N400; P600; Prominence; Psych-verbs; Spanish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Comprehension / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Linguistics
  • Male
  • Semantics
  • Spain
  • Young Adult