The difference between “giving a rose” and “giving a kiss”: A sustained anterior negativity to the light verb construction

Citation:

Wittenberg, E., Paczynski, M., Wiese, H., Jackendoff, R., & Kuperberg, G. R. (2014). The difference between “giving a rose” and “giving a kiss”: A sustained anterior negativity to the light verb construction. Journal of Memory and Language , (73), 31 - 42.

Abstract:

We used event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate the neurocognitive mechanisms associated with processing light verb constructions such as “give a kiss”. These constructions consist of a semantically underspecified light verb (“give”) and an event nominal that contributes most of the meaning and also activates an argument structure of its own (“kiss”). This creates a mismatch between the syntactic constituents and the semantic roles of a sentence. Native speakers read German verb-final sentences that contained light verb constructions (e.g., “Julius gave Anne a kiss”), non-light constructions (e.g., “Julius gave Anne a rose”), and semantically anomalous constructions (e.g., *“Julius gave Anne a conversation”). ERPs were measured at the critical verb, which appeared after all its arguments. Compared to non-light constructions, the light verb constructions evoked a widely distributed, frontally focused, sustained negative-going effect between 500 and 900 ms after verb onset. We interpret this effect as reflecting working memory costs associated with complex semantic processes that establish a shared argument structure in the light verb constructions.

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Last updated on 01/25/2019