Lexicon in action: N400 contextual effect on affordances and telicity

Erica CosentinoDepartment of Philosophy, University of Calabria
Giosue BaggioSISSA, Trieste
Jarmo KontinenDepartment of Philosophy, Ruhr University Bochum
Theresa GarwelsDepartment of Philosophy, Ruhr University Bochum
Markus WerningDepartment of Philosophy, Ruhr University Bochum

Abstract

Traditional semantic theories assume that meaning arises from the syntactic combination of amodal symbols processed by a modular subsystem. This idea has two striking implications: first, sensory-motor experience has no relevance in language processing; secondly, since the domain of syntactic rules is the sentence, linguistic interpretation takes place in a two-step fashion such that discourse-level information is considered only after establishing sentence local meaning. This paper calls into question both these assumptions. Contrary to the predictions of two-step models, in the present ERPs study we found evidence of the power of discourse in overwriting local semantic violations (e.g., using a funnel to hang the coat) and in making locally acceptable combinations (e.g., using a funnel to pour water into a container) globally incongruent. Since context systematically affected the action possibilities of an object, the current results also challenge traditional theories showing that affordances are immediately integrated in the creation of new meanings.

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Lexicon in action: N400 contextual effect on affordances and telicity (271 KB)



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