Using magnetoencephalography to investigate processing of negative polarity items in Mandarin Chinese

Pei Shu Tsai, Ovid J.L. Tzeng, Daisy L. Hung, Denise H. Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


The present study used magnetoencephalographic neuroimaging to examine the neural correlates supporting the processing of a negative polarity item (NPI) (renhe) in Mandarin Chinese. Participants monitored the appearance of a catch word in sentences while their brain activities during the processing of the NPI or a perfective aspect marker (- le) were recorded. The results revealed that the NPI in a non-downward entailing context elicited a larger M350 component, possibly reflecting the cost of semantic integration. As a contrast, sentences violating grammatical aspects elicited greater brain responses in a later time window between 500 and 600 ms. The present findings not only demonstrate a clear distinction between semantic and syntactic processing in dissociable time courses, but further indicate that the processing of negative polarity items in Chinese is mainly constrained by the conditions imposed by semantic context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-270
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Mar 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Cite this