Köhne-Fuetterer, Judith; Drenhaus, Heiner; Delogu, Francesca; Demberg, Vera

The online processing of causal and concessive discourse connectives

Linguistics, 59, pp. 417-448, 2021.

While there is a substantial amount of evidence for language processing being a highly incremental and predictive process, we still know relatively little about how top-down discourse based expectations are combined with bottom-up information such as discourse connectives. The present article reports on three experiments investigating this question using different methodologies (visual world paradigm and ERPs) in two languages (German and English). We find support for highly incremental processing of causal and concessive discourse connectives, causing anticipation of upcoming material. Our visual world study shows that anticipatory looks depend on the discourse connective; furthermore, the German ERP study revealed an N400 effect on a gender-marked adjective preceding the target noun, when the target noun was inconsistent with the expectations elicited by the combination of context and discourse connective. Moreover, our experiments reveal that the facilitation of downstream material based on earlier connectives comes at the cost of reversing original expectations, as evidenced by a P600 effect on the concessive relative to the causal connective.