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Processing Predicate NPs: An EEG study


  • Ann Hermansson

Summary, in English

Theories on discourse accessibility and givenness suggest that nominal discourse entities vary with regard to how likely they are to act as antecedents to anaphoric expressions. Many factors are thought to affect the accessibility of a nominal entity in the mental model, including its morphosyntactic form and grammatical role. Moreover, previous research has shown that reflexive pronouns can be illusorily licensed, if they are preceded by a nominal that matches them in terms of morphosyntactic or semantic features (e.g. number and gender). While some nominals that are unavailable as antecedents by syntactic criteria (cf. Binding Theory) have been studied with regard to discourse accessibility and pronoun resolution, as well as to what extent they give rise to agreement attraction effects, non-referential predicate nominals have not yet been studied in a pronoun-resolution paradigm. The current study made use of an EEG experiment in order to investigate to what extent predicate noun phrases are considered potential antecedents during online pronoun resolution. This was indicated by whether they gave rise to agreement-attraction effects. The results showed that a predicate nominal antecedent yielded a significant P600 response, and also a late sustained anterior negativity (L-AN) response against a baseline, referential nominal condition. The P600 and L-AN responses were interpreted as indications of the predicate nominals being realised as poor antecedents to the anaphoric pronoun. However, gender congruency between the predicate noun phrase and the anaphoric pronoun attenuated the P600 amplitude. The amplitude attenuation was interpreted as the predicate nominal being falsely perceived as an antecedent to the anaphoric pronoun, as indicated by the presence of agreement attraction effects. The results therefore suggest that a predicate noun phrase is considered a potential antecedent to an anaphoric pronoun during the early stages of pronoun resolution.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • pronoun resolution
  • agreement attraction
  • nominal predicates
  • EEG
  • ERPs
  • P600
  • anterior negativity


  • Eva Klingvall
  • Fredrik Heinat