Event Abstract

Lexical and syntactic competition effects in verb processing: evidence from corpus-based statistics

  • 1 University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

How verbs are processed in the brain is modulated by whether the verbs’ lexico-syntactic representations are relevant given the context (Tyler et al., 2008). Here we investigate how phonological and syntactic properties of verbs influence processing in the presence or absence of grammatical context. We hypothesized that processes of competition and selection would operate at both lexical (cohort competition; Marslen-Wilson, 1987) and syntactic (competition between possible subcategorization frames (SCFs)) levels. Using CELEX, we defined cohort competition as the ratio of target word frequency to the summed frequencies of competitor words in the same cohort (same two onset phonemes). Using VALEX (a lexicon of verb SCF behaviour derived from large corpora; Korhonen et al., 2006), we defined syntactic competition as the entropy of the verbs’ SCF frequency distributions. In an fMRI study, subjects made lexical decisions to spoken verbs occurring as stems (“sing”) or in phases (“I sing”). For stems, there was a significant effect of cohort competition with greater activation in LIFG (BA45/47) for verbs with strong competitors. There was no effect of syntactic competition, indicating that processing verbs in isolation is insensitive to the verbs’ lexico-syntactic representations. For the phrases, in contrast, there was greater activation in LIFG (BA45/44) for verbs with high syntactic competition but no effect of cohort competition. This suggests that phrasal contexts affect cohort competition by eliminating form-class inconsistent cohort candidates (Tyler, 1983) whilst triggering the activation of lexico-syntactic information (Longe et al., 2007). Furthermore, BA45 might play a general role in processing linguistic competition, activating for both cohort and syntactic competition. Funding: Supported by EPSRC grant EP/F030061/1 (LKT & AK), Medical Research Council (UK) grant G0500842 (LKT) and the Royal Society (UK) University Research Fellowship (AK)

Keywords: Language, Verb processing

Conference: XI International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience (ICON XI), Palma, Mallorca, Spain, 25 Sep - 29 Sep, 2011.

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation

Topic: Poster Sessions: Neural Bases of Language

Citation: Zhuang J, Devereux BJ, Korhonen A and Tyler LK (2011). Lexical and syntactic competition effects in verb processing: evidence from corpus-based statistics. Front. Hum. Neurosci. Conference Abstract: XI International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience (ICON XI). doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2011.207.00188

Received: 19 Nov 2011; Published Online: 28 Nov 2011.

* Correspondence: Dr. Jie Zhuang, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, jzhuang@csl.psychol.cam.ac.uk

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