The costs of freedom: An ERP - Study of non-canonical sentences

Mike Matzke, Heinke Mai, W. Nager, Jascha Rüsseler, Thomas Münte*

*Corresponding author for this work
60 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: The present investigation explored the electrophysiological correlates of working memory during sentence comprehension. Methods: Event-related brain potentials (ERP) were recorded from 29 channels in 22 subjects, while they read German sentences having subject-first (canonical) or object-first (non-canonical) word orders. Results: Three different ERP effects were observed: a negativity (maximum at Fc5) differentiating unambiguous object-first and subject-first sentences, interpreted as reflecting the demands of the object-first sentences on working memory; a second negativity (maximum at F7) to the subject noun-phrase in object-first sentences, interpreted as indicating retrieval of verbal material. Finally, a parietal positivity was found for ambiguous sentences that turned out to have a non-canonical word order, which was interpreted as indicating revision and reevaluation processes. Conclusions: The present data underscore the different roles of working memory in comprehension.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)844-852
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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