Is the subject-before-object preference universal? An event-related potential study in the Kaqchikel Mayan language

Daichi Yasunaga, Masataka Yano, Yoshiho Yasugi, Masatoshi Koizumi

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The processing load of sentences with different word orders in the Kaqchikel Mayan language was investigated using event-related potentials. We observed a P600 for subject-verb-object and verb-subject-object sentences as compared to verb-object-subject (VOS) sentences, suggesting that VOS order is easier to process than the other orders. This is consistent with the traditional interpretation in Mayan linguistics that the syntactically determined basic word order is VOS in Kaqchikel, as in many other Mayan languages. More importantly, the results revealed that the preference for subject-object word order in sentence comprehension observed in previous studies may not be universal; rather, processing load in sentence comprehension is greatly affected by the syntactic nature of individual languages.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1209-1229
    Number of pages21
    JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
    Volume30
    Issue number9
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2015 Oct 21

    Keywords

    • Basic word order
    • Guatemala
    • field-based psycholinguistics
    • processing load
    • syntactic complexity

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Linguistics and Language
    • Cognitive Neuroscience

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