Is incremental semantic interpretation related to end-of-sentence verification?: Evidence from correlation analyses


Prior research has typically viewed verification as a ``late'' process that is distinct from comprehension, occurring only after sentence comprehension is complete (e.g., Tanenhaus et al., 1976). If so, we would expect to see no clear relationship between incremental semantic interpretation processes and end-of-sentence verification times. Alternatively, these two processes may be systematically related. To examine this issue, we recorded event-related brain potentials (ERPs) as young adult participants read sentences in which the verb matched versus mismatched the action in a preceding picture. ERPs to the verb-action mismatch resembled the centro-parietal N400 typically seen in response to lexico-semantic incongruities during reading, suggesting that incremental semantic interpretation plays a key part in picture-sentence congruence processing.. Moreover, amplitudes of participants’ N400s to the verb correlated reliably with end-of-sentence verification latencies. Our findings contribute to the revalidation of the verification paradigm for studies of language comprehension, and provide support for the constituent-wise comparator mechanism of the Constituent Comparison Model of sentence-picture verification (Carpenter & Just, 1975).

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