How the conceptual specificity of individual words affects incremental sentence composition: MEG evidence

Songhee Kim, Liina Pylkkänen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

While much research has addressed the neural basis of lexical access and the composition of lexical items into larger meanings, little is known about how the semantic properties of individual words affect composition. Research on modifier-noun combinations has, however, shown that composition related activity in the left anterior temporal lobe (LATL) is sensitive to the conceptual specificity of the composing words. Here we tested whether this pattern extends to verb-argument combinations in minimal subject-verb-object sentences. If the LATL specificity effects extend to verb-argument integration, this would suggest a general mechanism that composes not only entity concepts, but also propositions describing events. Results showed an overall similar modulation by conceptual specificity in the verb domain, suggesting a central, category-insensitive, role for the LATL as a conceptual combiner. Additionally, we saw specificity effects in the left mid-superior temporal cortex, but the angular gyrus, often hypothesized as combinatory, showed no effects of composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104951
JournalBrain and Language
Volume218
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Concepts
  • Left angular gyrus
  • Left anterior temporal lobe
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Semantic composition
  • Semantics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing

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