ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2009, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (06): 471-480.

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ERP Investigation into English Sentence Processing of Chinese ESL Learners:Taking English Active Sentences as An Example


  • Received:2008-05-18 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2009-06-30 Online:2009-06-30
  • Contact: WANG Pei


Randomly selecting 20 university students (10 female, 10 male) as subjects, who were right-handed and had passed CET-4 and Manipulating different anomaly types (semantically, syntactically or doubly anomalous sentences) and anomaly words at sentence-internal and sentence-final position, the study probed into Chinese ESL learners’ mental mechanisms of English active sentence processing by using ERPs. Specifically, the experimental materials included 360 active sentences whose length ranges from 6 to 8 words and were classified into six types (each type includes 60 sentences): control sentences, sentence-internal syntactic anomalies, sentence-internal semantic anomalies, sentence-final syntactic anomalies, sentence-final semantic anomalies and sentence-internal and sentence-final double anomalies involving both semantic and syntactic difficulties. The task of subjects was to judge whether the sentences were correct. In addition, the indices of the observation were reaction times, the rate of correct responses and ERP indices in the process of the experiments.
The results indicated: Under sentence-internal syntactic anomalous condition, the ELAN was visible. Under sentence-final syntactic anomalous condition, the P600 was observed. In relation to semantic anomalies, the sentence-final N400 was significantly larger than the sentence-internal. There existed the effect of word position. Under doubly anomalous condition, both the N400 and P600 were detected and the change on amplitude showed an asymmetry compared to single anomalies. To be specific, as for the P600, double anomalies elicited a larger increase in the P600 amplitude. With regard to the N400, double anomalies produced smaller amplitude. The pattern of results showed the interaction between semantic and syntactic processing. Semantic processing had greater impact on syntactic processing.

Key words: sentence processing, syntactic anomaly, semantic anomaly, double anomaly, Chinese ESL Learners