The present study used magnetoencephalographic neuroimaging to examine the neural correlates supporting the processing of a negative polarity item (NPI) (renhe) in Mandarin Chinese. Participants monitored the appearance of a catch word in sentences while their brain activities during the processing of the NPI or a perfective aspect marker (- le) were recorded. The results revealed that the NPI in a non-downward entailing context elicited a larger M350 component, possibly reflecting the cost of semantic integration. As a contrast, sentences violating grammatical aspects elicited greater brain responses in a later time window between 500 and 600 ms. The present findings not only demonstrate a clear distinction between semantic and syntactic processing in dissociable time courses, but further indicate that the processing of negative polarity items in Chinese is mainly constrained by the conditions imposed by semantic context.
- NPI licensing
- Sentence processing