Characterising kinds and instances of kinds: ERP reflections

Sandeep Prasada, Anna Salajegheh, Anita Bowles, David Poeppel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Syntactic and semantic information are computed online in a manner such that electrophysiological methods can detect distinct processes within a few hundred milliseconds of a word. The amplitude of the N400 response has been shown to reflect semantic integration of a word in the context of a preceding word, sentence, and discourse. We show, in a combined behavioural and ERP study, that the N400 amplitude to the same word, in nearly identical sentential contexts, is modulated as a function of subtly different morphosyntactic environments that condition either a generic (grass is green) or nongeneric (the grass is green) reading. The results suggest that N400 amplitude reflects not only the existence of a semantic computation but can reflect processes relevant to the type of semantic relation being computed. Specifically, it is sensitive to whether a word is interpreted as characterising a kind/type or an instance of a kind/token of a type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-240
Number of pages15
JournalLanguage and Cognitive Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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