ERP correlates of focus accentuation in Dutch

Diana V. Dimitrova, Laurie A. Stowe, Gisela Redeker, John C.J. Hoeks, University of Groningen

The present ERP study investigated the on-line interaction of prosody and information structure in Dutch. More specifically, we looked into how pitch accents are processed which are either congruous or incongruous with respect to the discourse context. Our results show that listeners process prosodic information immediately and check it for congruity within the discourse. Inappropriate prosody elicited right lateralized centro-parietal negativity (N400) and a late positivity (P600) for superfluous accents on background elements. In contrast, missing accents on focused elements triggered a late positive effect (P600). We suggest that although unexpected accents are identified faster than unexpected missing accents, both types of prosodic mismatch are re-interpreted and integrated in the discourse.