Discourse processing depends on semantic memory as well as maintaining and updating of a mental model. Using event-related potentials, we investigated how a referent's information status (new, accessible, given) is processed in combination with three different prosodic realizations (an appropriate accent and two inappropriate accents). The data reveal a biphasic N400-late positivity pattern, indicating that prosodic information affects an early discourse linking stage, during which prominence information reflecting a referent's accessibility is computed (N400), and a later discourse updating stage, during which conflicts between prosodic information and a referent's actual information status are detected (late positivity). Crucially, the data show that the N400 is not only sensitive to lexico-semantic relations but also to discourse accessibility induced by prosodic cues.
Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text
aIndependent Emmy Noether Research Group, Department of English and Linguistics, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz
bInstitute of Linguistics, Phonetics, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany
Correspondence to Dr Petra B. Schumacher, Department of English and Linguistics, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Jakob-Welder-Weg 18, 55099 Mainz, Germany
Tel: +49 6131 3923859; fax: +49 6131 3923836; e-mail: email@example.com
Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Website (www.neuroreport.com).
Received 22 February 2010 accepted 8 March 2010