Object-Clitic Agreement in Croatian: An ERP Study
The present experiment was designed to open a discussion on the processing of anaphoric clitics in Croatian. The aim of the experiment was to examine the role of long-distance anaphoric relations and local structural case constraints during pronoun interpretation. On-line processing of cliticized direct-object pronouns embedded in a sentence context was examined using the event-related potential (ERP) technique. Pronominal clitics were either morphologically correct or incorrect. Incorrect pronoun forms contained a gender violation, a case violation, or a violation of both gender and case. Electrophysiological response to each of the violation types was measured at the clitic site and at the sentence-final word and compared to activity in the control condition. The results indicate that, as attested in previous studies in other languages, there are functional and temporal differences between the processing of gender and case violations in pronouns. Whereas gender violations elicit late positivity, i.e., the component related to the processing of syntactic difficulties, case violations elicit a biphasic response in the form of early negativity followed by late positivity. A similar ERP effect is observed with double violations as well, albeit with a different distribution of the early negativity. The appearance of early negativities with case violations confirms previous findings on the rapidity of local syntactic processing as compared to the processing of long-distance anaphoric dependencies. At the end of the sentence, the typical wrap-up effect that reflects final semantic integration is replaced by the component related to syntactic reanalysis and repair.
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