Publication details [#11748]

Burmester, Juliane, Katharina Spalek and Isabell Wartenburger. 2014. Context updating during sentence comprehension: The effect of aboutness topic. Brain & Language 137 : 62–76. 15 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Amsterdam: Elsevier


The current study aims to explore how the discourse environment affects the interpretation of utterances. More specifically, two conditions are examined in a fictitious context: a) aboutness topic in relation to a subsequent canonical declarative sentence (subject before object) in German and b) aboutness topic in relation to a non-canonical declarative sentence in German (object before subject). For each condition, the fictitious context is also different. In canonical utterances the story provides information on one character of the scene, whereas in non-canonical utterances a wide scope of the scene is provided. The experimental methods involved a comprehensibility judgment task of the stories and Event Related Potentials (ERPs) testing the processing of Subject-Object and Object –Subject sentences. In the first experiment, 28 German native speakers participated whereas in the second 21, respectively. The findings revealed a statistically significant interaction between context type and word order: the participants’ comprehensibility judgments over the stories where different depending on the SO and OS order of the utterances.