Single-Word Experiments Can Address Language Representation?
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The study examined the event-related potentials (ERPs) to language comprehension in non-contextual condition (single words) and contextual condition (simple SVO sentence) in both first language (L1) and second language (L2), while subjects performing a comprehension-recall task. Our results showed that, in both contextual and non-contextual conditions, the differences of ERPs in L1 and L2 were mainly found in N400 and LPC components. However, the ERP differences in L1 and L2 were dependent on the contextual/non-contextual conditions. To be specific, in non-contextual condition, ERPs of L1 and L2 were only found different in N400 components, with magnitude of ERPs in L1 significantly larger than that in L2. We argue that the difference is quantitative, and it suggests L1 and L2 share the same semantic system. In contrast to the quantitative differences found in non-contextual condition, qualitative ERP differences were found between L1 and L2 in contextual condition. In addition to the difference in N400 component similar to that found in non-contextual condition, ERPs of L1 in contextual condition demonstrated a significant LPC, a component thought to reflect automatic processing. The LPC was almost absent in L2 in contextual condition. On the other hand, ERP differences between contextual and non-contextual conditions were found in both L1 and L2, with relatively more difference between two conditions in L1. And to an extent, results can not be generalized from single words to language.
Keywordssingle word N400 LPC priming effect automatic processing
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