Task-dependent neural and behavioral effects of verb argument structure features

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Abstract

Understanding which verb argument structure (VAS) features (if any) are part of verbs' lexical entries and under which conditions they are accessed provides information on the nature of lexical representations and sentence construction. We investigated neural and behavioral effects of three understudied VAS characteristics (number of subcategorization options, number of thematic options and overall number of valency frames) in lexical decision and sentence well-formedness judgment in healthy adults. VAS effects showed strong dependency on processing conditions. As reflected by behavioral performance and neural recruitment patterns, increased VAS complexity in terms of subcategorization options and thematic options had a detrimental effect on sentence processing, but facilitated lexical access to single words, possibly by providing more lexico-semantic associations and access routes (facilitation through complexity). Effects of the number of valency frames are equivocal. We suggest that VAS effects may be mediated semantically rather than by a dedicated VAS module in verbs' representations.

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