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Journal Article

An event-related potential study on changes of violation and error responses during morphosyntactic learning

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Davidson, D., & Indefrey, P. (2009). An event-related potential study on changes of violation and error responses during morphosyntactic learning. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21(3), 433-446. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.21031.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0010-9CC2-5
Based on recent findings showing electrophysiological changes in adult language learners after relatively short periods of training, we hypothesized that adult Dutch learners of German would show responses to German gender and ad- jective declension violations after brief instruction. Adjective declension in German differs from previously studied mor- phosyntactic regularities in that the required suffixes depend not only on the syntactic case, gender, and number features to be expressed, but also on whether or not these features are already expressed on linearly preceding elements in the noun phrase. Violation phrases and matched controls were pre- sented over three test phases (pretest and training on the first day, and a posttest one week later). During the pretest, no electrophysiological differences were observed between viola- tion and control conditions, and participants’ classification per- formance was near chance. During the training and posttest phases, classification improved, and there was a P600-like vi- olation response to declension but not gender violations. An error-related response during training was associated with im- provement in grammatical discrimination from pretest to post- test. The results show that rapid changes in neuronal responses can be observed in adult learners of a complex morphosyntactic rule, and also that error-related electrophysiological responses may relate to grammar acquisition.