Previous studies on the neuro-cognition of language have provided a strong case for systematic inter-individual variability in event-related potentials (ERPs) evoked during language processing. In the present study, we aimed at extending this evidence to the processing of morphologically complex words. We focused on German plural forms and tested two types of morphological violations: overapplications of regular plural morphemes (‘regularizations’) and of irregular plural morphemes (‘irregularizations’). The group-level results showed a biphasic LAN-P600 response for regularizations, and a P600 for irregularizations. In line with previous reports, our analyses of inter-individual variability suggested that biphasic responses consisting of a negativity followed by a positivity are unlikely to exist at the individual level. Importantly, when analyzing the scalp distribution of ERPs elicited in participants supposed to show negativity-dominant responses, we found this to vary as a function of the type of morphological form: regularizations elicited a left-hemisphere response (LAN), while irregularizations a more widespread negativity (N400). Our results are consistent with dual-route accounts of morphological processing that distinguish between rule-based processing for regular inflection and memory retrieval for irregular inflection. At a more general level, our study shows that complementing group-level results with analyses of inter-individual variability can crucially contribute to a more detailed understanding of brain signatures of language.
Response dominance index
400 Sprache::410 Linguistik::410 Linguistik
Inter-individual variability in morphological processing: An ERP study on German plurals
Journal of Neurolinguistics
Philosophie und Geisteswissenschaften
Brain Language Laboratory