Morphosyntactic prediction in automatic neural processing of spoken language: EEG evidence

Maria Alekseeva*, Andriy Myachykov, Beatriz Bermudez-Margaretto, Yury Shtyrov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Automatic parsing of syntactic information by the human brain is a well-established phenomenon, but its mechanisms remain poorly understood. Its best-known neurophysiological reflection is early left-anterior negativity (ELAN) component of event-related potentials (ERPs), with two alternative hypotheses for its origin: (1) error detection, or (2) morphosyntactic prediction/priming. To test these alternatives, we conducted two experiments using a non-attend passive design with visual distraction and recorded ERPs to spoken pronoun-verb phrases with/without agreement violations and the same critical verbs presented in isolation without preceding pronouns. The results revealed an ELAN at ∼130-220 ms for pronoun-verb gender agreement violations, confirming a high degree of automaticity in early morphosyntactic parsing. Critically, the strongest ELAN was elicited by verbs outside phrasal context, which suggests that the typical ELAN pattern is underpinned by a reduction of ERP amplitudes for felicitous combinations, reflecting syntactic priming/predictability between related words/morphemes (potentially mediated by associative links formed during previous linguistic experience) rather than specialised error-detection processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number148949
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2024


  • EEG
  • ELAN
  • ERP
  • Morphosyntactic processing
  • Predictability
  • Speech perception


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