Article published in:Transitivity: Form, Meaning, Acquisition, and Processing
Edited by Patrick Brandt and Marco García García
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 166] 2010
► pp. 161–188
Grammatical transitivity vs. interpretive distinctness
The case for a separation of two levels of representation that are often conflated
This chapter examines the role of transitivity in online language comprehension by means of an event-related brain potential (ERP) study on differential object marking in Hindi. Participants read sentences of the form NP1-NP2-Verb; NP1 always bore ergative case, whereas NP2 was either case-marked (with -ko) or not. In addition, both NP1 and NP2 were either human or inanimate. At the verb, we observed a late positivity (P600) for sentences with non-case-marked objects, which was more pronounced for sentences with human objects and for sentences with inanimate subjects. We argue that the P600 reflects processes of pragmatic enrichment that are required when a semantically transitive event is expressed by a syntactically intransitive construction.
Published online: 17 November 2010