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.
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