Processing classifier-noun agreement in a long distance: An ERP study on Mandarin Chinese

Chun Chieh Hsu*, Shu Hua Tsai, Chin Lung Yang, Jenn Yeu Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The classifier system categorizes nouns on a semantic basis. By inserting an object-gap relative clause (RC) between a classifier and its associate noun, we examined how temporary classifier-noun semantic incongruity and long-distance classifier-noun dependency are processed. Instead of a typical N400 effect, a midline anterior negativity was elicited by the temporary semantic incongruity, suggesting that the anticipation of coming words influences semantic processing and that metacognitive processes are involved in resolving the conflict. The lack of reduced P600 effects at the RC marker suggests that classifier-noun mismatch may not be effective in RC prediction. The N400 observed at the head noun suggests that the parser retains the temporary incongruity in the memory and computes the classifier-noun semantic agreement over a long distance. In addition, both successful and unsuccessful long-distance integration elicited P600 effects, supporting the view that P600 indexes more than just syntactic processing. Detailed discussion and implications are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-28
Number of pages15
JournalBrain and Language
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Oct 1


  • Classifiers
  • ERPs
  • Long-distance dependency
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • N400
  • P600
  • Relative clauses
  • Semantic incongruity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


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