N400 and P600 or the role of the ERP correlates in sentence comprehension: Some applications to the Italian language

Michela Balconi, Uberto Pozzoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present study, event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were applied to the study of language comprehension in the Italian language. The ERPs were recorded from 10 electrodes while the participants read (Experiment 1) or listened (Experiment 2) to sentences containing semantic or syntactic anomalies. Final words that were inconsistent with the sentence context elicited a negative wave at about 400 ms poststimulus that was more concentrated in the posterior sites of the scalp, whereas final words that were incongruous with the grammatical structure (subject-verb nonagreement) elicited a positive wave at about 600 ms poststimulus that was homogeneously distributed on the scalp. The authors found no differences based on the perceptual modality of the stimulus (visual or auditory), nor did they find different ERP correlates as a function of task relevance (explicit-implicit task induction). The available evidence indicated that the ERP response to semantic anomalies was at least partially distinct from the ERP response to syntactic anomalies, and that a syntactic parser is a plausible process included in sentence comprehension. The two semantic and syntactic effects appear as automatic processes of the decoding of the anomalies and also modality-independent processes. Cross-linguistic applications are considered in the general discussion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-302
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of General Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004


  • Auditory stimuli
  • Event-related potentials
  • Semantic processing
  • Syntactic processing
  • Task induction
  • Visual stimuli

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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