Interplay between acoustic/phonetic and semantic processes during spoken sentence comprehension: An ERP study

Véronique Boulenger, Michel Hoen, Caroline Jacquier, Fanny Meunier
2011 Brain and Language  
When listening to speech in everyday-life situations, our cognitive system must often cope with signal instabilities such as sudden breaks, mispronunciations, interfering noises or reverberations potentially causing disruptions at the acoustic/phonetic interface and preventing efficient lexical access and semantic integration. The physiological mechanisms allowing listeners to react instantaneously to such fast and unexpected perturbations in order to maintain intelligibility of the delivered
more » ... ssage are still partly unknown. The present electroencephalography (EEG) study aimed at investigating the cortical responses to real-time detection of a sudden acoustic/phonetic change occurring in connected speech and how these mechanisms interfere with semantic integration. Participants listened to sentences in which final words could contain signal reversals along the temporal dimension (time-reversed speech) of varying durations and could have either a low-or high-cloze probability within sentence context. Results revealed that early detection of the acoustic/phonetic change elicited a fronto-central negativity shortly after the onset of the manipulation that matched the spatiotemporal features of the Mismatch Negativity (MMN) recorded in the same participants during an oddball paradigm. Time reversal also affected late event-related potentials (ERPs) reflecting semantic expectancies (N400) differently when words were predictable or not from the sentence context. These findings are discussed in the context of brain signatures to transient acoustic/phonetic variations in speech. They contribute to a better understanding of natural speech comprehension as they show that acoustic/phonetic information and semantic knowledge strongly interact under adverse conditions.
doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2010.09.011 pmid:20965558 fatcat:b5novpowtrhvbgnpxdk6gidzpm