Electrophysiological evidence for the interaction of prosody and thematic fit during sentence comprehension

Shannon M. Sheppard, Katherine J. Midgley, Tracy Love, Lewis P. Shapiro, Phillip J. Holcomb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study investigated the interaction of prosody and thematic fit/plausibility information during the processing of sentences containing temporary early closure (correct) or late closure (incorrect) syntactic ambiguities using event-related potentials (ERPs). Early closure sentences with congruent and incongruent prosody were presented where the temporarily ambiguous NP was either a plausible or an implausible continuation for the subordinate verb (e.g. “While the band played the song/beer pleased all the customers.”). N400 and P600 components were examined at critical points in each condition. The CPS was examined in sentences with congruent prosody. Prosodic and thematic fit cues interacted immediately (N400–P600) at the implausible NP (beer), when it was paired with incongruent prosody. Incongruent prosody paired with a plausible NP (song) resulted in garden-path effects (N400–P600) at the critical verb (pleased). These findings provide strong evidence that prosodic and thematic fit/plausibility cues interact to aid the parser in syntactic structure building.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-562
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 28 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Event-related potentials (ERPs)
  • prosody
  • sentence processing
  • thematic fit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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