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Working paper

Automatic Integration of Gender Information during Phrase Processing: ERP Evidence

Both linguistic (e.g., words, syntax) and extralinguistic (e.g., voice quality) information needs to be considered by interlocutors during linguistic communication. The effects of extralinguistic information on neural sentence processing are particularly poorly understood. Here, we used EEG and passive non-attend design with visual distraction in order to investigate how extralinguistic information affects brain activity during syntactic processing. We collected ERPs while participants listened to Russian pronoun-verb phrases recorded in either male or female voice. We manipulated congruency between the grammatical gender signaled by the verb’s ending and the speaker’s apparent gender. We registered both early and late phrase processing signatures in the incongruent conditions including ELAN (peaking at ~150 ms) and N400. Our data suggest a high degree of automaticity in integrating extralinguistic information during syntactic processing indicating existence of a rapid automatic syntactic integration mechanism sensitive to both linguistic and extralinguistic information.