Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Şeyda Özçalışkan

Second Advisor

Christopher Conway

Third Advisor

Michael Beran

Fourth Advisor

Ute Römer


Languages can be divided into two types based on how they express motion events. Some languages, like English, tend to express manner of motion in the verb and path of motion outside the verb. Other languages, like Spanish, tend to express path of motion in the verb and only express manner rarely in subordinated or separate clauses. Behavioral research has examined whether these differences in expression lead to crosslinguistic differences in the sensitivity to manner versus path information in cognition; however, these studies have led to inconclusive results. To date, no study has examined the neural correlates associated with either the lexicalization of motion information nor to the sensitivity of motion information processing. As such, the current study examines the event-related potentials (ERPs) associated with the processing of grammatical but atypical patterns of lexicalization and sensitivity to violations of expectancy for motion expression (congruency with a preceding animation) in adult native speakers of English and Spanish by examining the N400 (marker of semantic expectancy) and the P600 (marker of syntactic congruity that has recently been implicated in certain semantic errors). I predicted that atypical lexicalization patterns would produce larger ERP effects compared to typical patterns, and ERP effects would be larger for motion information to which speakers were more sensitive.

Rather than the traditionally predicted N400 effects to atypical lexicalizations, the results showed greater P600 effects. Similarly, analyses of sensitivity to motion expression violations revealed greater P600—as opposed to N400—amplitudes in response to incongruent compared to congruent motion verbs in both languages as well as both an N400 and P600 effect in path prepositions in English. In contrast, manner expressed outside the verb (gerunds) in both languages and path expressed outside the verb in Spanish (prepositions, adverbs) produced the traditional N400 effect for incongruent compared to congruent expressions. While these results do not provide support for the idea that habitual expression increases sensitivity to that type of information, it does suggest that speakers are sensitive to those lexical patterns. More interestingly, it suggests that the P600 may be sensitive to a broader range of stimuli than previously predicted.


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