Friday, April 4, 2008

Language Interpretation and the Immediacy Assumption

Hagoort, P. & von Berkum, J. (April 3, 2007). Beyond the sentence given. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 362, 801-811.

The view that language interpretation takes place in a two-step process has predominated, with the meaning of the sentence being computed first and the sentence meaning then being integrated with other sources of information (e.g. context, world knowledge). However, event-related brain potentials (ERPs) appear to be inconsistent with this model, finding strong empirical evidence that linguistic and extra-linguistic information are integrated in the same time-frame during sentence interpretation. Similar latencies and amplitudes of the N400 effect witnessed for all types of semantic mismatches support the immediacy assumption, that disparate information is brought to bear on language interpretation as soon as it becomes available. Neuroimaging studies suggest that the left inferior frontal cortex, including Broca's area, is an important node in the semantic unification network, and that this area is not language specific but acts as a single integration space.

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