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Neural correlates of syntactic dependencies in native English and Cantonese speakers

Kalm, K; (2007) Neural correlates of syntactic dependencies in native English and Cantonese speakers. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The focus of this research concerns the ERP response to violations of non-local syntactic dependencies. This was studied by recording neural event-related potentials (ERPs) during the processing of English sentences containing a syntactic unexpectancy of wh-movement by native English (n=19) and Cantonese speakers (n=15). Cantonese speakers were chosen as a control group for non-native language processing as their native language lacks the movement of constituents in wh-object questions. Non-local syntactic unexpectancies elicited an early left-anterior negativity (ELAN) in native English speakers but not in Cantonese speakers. The result suggests a wider functional interpretation of ELAN and supports the claim that ELAN represents a domain-specific and automatic syntactic processor not available for second language speakers. Both groups elicited a frontal P600-component in response to the violation. Frontal P600 has been associated in literature with differences in syntactic complexity or expectancy (Hagoort 2002) and domain-general declarative memory processes (Ullmann 2001). The results are also consistent with previous studies of speech and language impaired children (van der Lely & Battel1, 2003 Fonteneau and van der Lely, 2006), which suggest that speakers with no access to early automated syntactic processing would do not show ELAN in response to syntactic violations. The frontal nature of P600 support the Fundamental Difference Hypothesis (Clahsen and Fesler 2006), which suggests that while first language processing may rely on more automatic, procedural processing, second language processing may be restricted to learned, explicit, declarative knowledge.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Neural correlates of syntactic dependencies in native English and Cantonese speakers
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest. Third party copyright material has been removed from the ethesis. Images identifying individuals have been redacted or partially redacted to protect their identity.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Language and Cognition
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1569518
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