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Neural harmonics reflect grammaticality

  • Can neural activity reveal syntactic structure building processes and their violations? To verify this, we recorded electroencephalographic and behavioral data as participants discriminated concatenated isochronous sentence chains containing only grammatical sentences (regular trials) from those containing ungrammatical sentences (irregular trials). We found that the repetition of abstract syntactic categories generates a harmonic structure of their period independently of stimulus rate, thereby separating endogenous from exogenous neural rhythms. Behavioral analyses confirmed this dissociation. Internal neural harmonics extracted from regular trials predicted participants’ grammatical sensitivity better than harmonics extracted from irregular trials, suggesting a direct reflection of grammatical sensitivity. Instead, entraining to external stimulus rate scaled with task sensitivity only when extracted from irregular trials, reflecting attention-capture processing. Neural harmonics to repeated syntactic categories constitute the first behaviorally relevant, purely internal index of syntactic competence.

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Author:Alessandro Tavano, Stefan BlohmORCiDGND, Christine A. KnoopGND, R MuralikrishnanORCiD, Lauren FinkORCiDGND, Mathias ScharingerGND, Valentin Wagner, Dominik ThieleORCiD, Oded Ghitza, Nai Ding, Winfried Menninghaus, David PoeppelORCiDGND
Document Type:Preprint
Year of first Publication:2022
Date of Publication (online):2024/03/22
Publishing Institution:Leibniz-Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS)
GND Keyword:Frequenz; Grammatikalität; Harmonik; Hirnfunktion; Studie; Syntax
Page Number:36
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 400 Sprache, Linguistik
Open Access?:ja
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich geschützt