Data_Sheet_1_Eliciting ERP Components for Morphosyntactic Agreement Mismatches in Perfectly Grammatical Sentences.docx

The present event-related brain potential (ERP) study investigates mechanisms underlying the processing of morphosyntactic information during real-time auditory sentence comprehension in French. Employing an auditory-visual sentence-picture matching paradigm, we investigated two types of anomalies using entirely grammatical auditory stimuli: (i) semantic mismatches between visually presented actions and spoken verbs, and (ii) number mismatches between visually presented agents and corresponding morphosyntactic number markers in the spoken sentences (determiners, pronouns in liaison contexts, and verb-final “inflection”). We varied the type and amount of number cues available in each sentence using two manipulations. First, we manipulated the verb type, by using verbs whose number cue was audible through subject (clitic) pronoun liaison (liaison verbs) as well as verbs whose number cue was audible on the verb ending (consonant-final verbs). Second, we manipulated the pre-verbal context: each sentence was preceded either by a neutral context providing no number cue, or by a subject noun phrase containing a subject number cue on the determiner. Twenty-two French-speaking adults participated in the experiment. While sentence judgment accuracy was high, participants' ERP responses were modulated by the type of mismatch encountered. Lexico-semantic mismatches on the verb elicited the expected N400 and additional negativities. Determiner number mismatches elicited early anterior negativities, N400s and P600s. Verb number mismatches elicited biphasic N400-P600 patterns. However, pronoun + verb liaison mismatches yielded this pattern only in the plural, while consonant-final changes did so in the singular and the plural. Furthermore, an additional sustained frontal negativity was observed in two of the four verb mismatch conditions: plural liaison and singular consonant-final forms. This study highlights the different contributions of number cues in oral language processing and is the first to investigate whether auditory-visual mismatches can elicit errors reminiscent of outright grammatical errors. Our results emphasize that neurocognitive mechanisms underlying number agreement in French are modulated by the type of cue that is used to identify auditory-visual mismatches.