ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2013, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (8): 1371-1381.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2013.01371

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The Role of Noun Animacy in Language Processing

JIA Guangzhen;LIU Youyi;SHU Hua;Fang Xiaoping   

  1. (1 School of Education and Psychology, University of Jinan, Jinan 250022, China) (2 National Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China)
  • Received:2012-10-09 Online:2013-08-15 Published:2013-08-15
  • Contact: LIU Youyi

Abstract: Animacy of nouns has been found significantly impacting the organization and processing of language in many ways. In particular, it imposes restrictions on the syntactic morphology and syntactic position, and the assignment of the thematic roles heavily relies on animacy. By recording reaction times and eye tracking, previous studies revealed that animacy of nouns facilitated comprehension of ambiguous sentences and complex sentences. With the development of cognitive neuroscience techniques, the neural mechanism of how animacy influences the assignment of thematic roles has been further explored during recent years. Some new theoretical models have been proposed to explain the relationship of syntax and semantics during sentence processing in a more comprehensive way. Based on existing studies and theories, we propose that future research should particularly focus on the immediate impact of animacy during online language processing, the interaction of animacy and syntactic information during the assignment of thematic roles, and the cross-language difference of these effects.

Key words: animacy, thematic roles, syntax, semantics, P600