On-line Effects of Implicit Rhythm on Lexical Processing



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The purpose of this study was to investigate whether an internal representation of rhythm is implemented during silent reading. This was tested by observing reading behavior and neural responses to the disambiguation process for stress-alternating ambiguous words. The English language contains stress-alternating ambiguous words, such as abstract. Depending on its rhythmic pattern, it can be interpreted as the noun: the ABstract, or the verb: to abSTRACT. The first experiment tracked participant’s eye movements as they read sentences with an expected rhythmic structure on these ambiguous words which was either consistent or inconsistent with the semantic interpretation of the sentence. As predicted, the less predominant verb interpretations showed more disruptions in reading behavior, unless the rhythmic pattern supported a verb interpretation. A second experiment investigated deviations in expected rhythmic structures using limericks. The predicted negativity for inconsistent conditions was not found. However, a greater positivity was demonstrated for words produced as a noun with a trochaic rhythm. This study demonstrates empirical evidence that readers use an implicit rhythmic representation during silent reading.



Prosody, Rhythm, Eye tracking, Event related potential