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The role of literal meaning in figurative language comprehension: evidence from masked priming ERP.

Weiland H, Bambini V, Schumacher PB - Front Hum Neurosci (2014)

Bottom Line: We interpret the findings within a two-phase language architecture where contextual expectations guide initial access (N400) and precede pragmatic adjustment resulting in reconceptualization (Late Positivity).With masked priming, the N400-difference was reduced for metaphors and vanished for metonymies.This combined masked priming ERP paradigm therefore yields new insights into the role of literal meaning in the online composition of figurative language.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of English and Linguistics, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz Mainz, Germany.

ABSTRACT
The role of literal meaning during the construction of meaning that goes beyond pure literal composition was investigated by combining cross-modal masked priming and ERPs. This experimental design was chosen to compare two conflicting theoretical positions on this topic. The indirect access account claims that literal aspects are processed first, and additional meaning components are computed only if no satisfactory interpretation is reached. In contrast, the direct access approach argues that figurative aspects can be accessed immediately. We presented metaphors (These lawyers are hyenas, Experiment 1a and 1b) and producer-for-product metonymies (The boy read Böll, Experiment 2a and 2b) with and without a prime word that was semantically relevant to the literal meaning of the target word (furry and talented, respectively). In the presentation without priming, metaphors revealed a biphasic N400-Late Positivity pattern, while metonymies showed an N400 only. We interpret the findings within a two-phase language architecture where contextual expectations guide initial access (N400) and precede pragmatic adjustment resulting in reconceptualization (Late Positivity). With masked priming, the N400-difference was reduced for metaphors and vanished for metonymies. This speaks against the direct access view that predicts a facilitating effect for the literal condition only and hence would predict the N400-difference to increase. The results are more consistent with indirect access accounts that argue for facilitation effects for both conditions and consequently for consistent or even smaller N400-amplitude differences. This combined masked priming ERP paradigm therefore yields new insights into the role of literal meaning in the online composition of figurative language.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Grand average ERPs for Experiment 2a and 2b. Grand average ERPs at 7 selected electrodes for metonymic (blue) and literal (red) conditions without priming in (A) (Experiment 1a) and with priming in (B) (Experiment 1b). Vertical bar represents the word recognition point of the target; negativity is plotted up.
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Figure 5: Grand average ERPs for Experiment 2a and 2b. Grand average ERPs at 7 selected electrodes for metonymic (blue) and literal (red) conditions without priming in (A) (Experiment 1a) and with priming in (B) (Experiment 1b). Vertical bar represents the word recognition point of the target; negativity is plotted up.

Mentions: Figure 5A shows the grand average ERPs for metonymies and their literal controls. The figurative condition elicited a more pronounced negativity between 200 and 350 ms (N400 time-window) in contrast to the literal condition. The findings, based on visual inspection, were confirmed by statistical analyses. ANOVAs revealed an interaction of FIGURATIVENESS × ROI [F(3, 69) = 3.11, p < 0.05], significant only in the left posterior region [F(1, 23) = 4.45, p < 0.05], for the lateral regions of interest and no significant effect for the midline (F < 1).


The role of literal meaning in figurative language comprehension: evidence from masked priming ERP.

Weiland H, Bambini V, Schumacher PB - Front Hum Neurosci (2014)

Grand average ERPs for Experiment 2a and 2b. Grand average ERPs at 7 selected electrodes for metonymic (blue) and literal (red) conditions without priming in (A) (Experiment 1a) and with priming in (B) (Experiment 1b). Vertical bar represents the word recognition point of the target; negativity is plotted up.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4120764&req=5

Figure 5: Grand average ERPs for Experiment 2a and 2b. Grand average ERPs at 7 selected electrodes for metonymic (blue) and literal (red) conditions without priming in (A) (Experiment 1a) and with priming in (B) (Experiment 1b). Vertical bar represents the word recognition point of the target; negativity is plotted up.
Mentions: Figure 5A shows the grand average ERPs for metonymies and their literal controls. The figurative condition elicited a more pronounced negativity between 200 and 350 ms (N400 time-window) in contrast to the literal condition. The findings, based on visual inspection, were confirmed by statistical analyses. ANOVAs revealed an interaction of FIGURATIVENESS × ROI [F(3, 69) = 3.11, p < 0.05], significant only in the left posterior region [F(1, 23) = 4.45, p < 0.05], for the lateral regions of interest and no significant effect for the midline (F < 1).

Bottom Line: We interpret the findings within a two-phase language architecture where contextual expectations guide initial access (N400) and precede pragmatic adjustment resulting in reconceptualization (Late Positivity).With masked priming, the N400-difference was reduced for metaphors and vanished for metonymies.This combined masked priming ERP paradigm therefore yields new insights into the role of literal meaning in the online composition of figurative language.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of English and Linguistics, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz Mainz, Germany.

ABSTRACT
The role of literal meaning during the construction of meaning that goes beyond pure literal composition was investigated by combining cross-modal masked priming and ERPs. This experimental design was chosen to compare two conflicting theoretical positions on this topic. The indirect access account claims that literal aspects are processed first, and additional meaning components are computed only if no satisfactory interpretation is reached. In contrast, the direct access approach argues that figurative aspects can be accessed immediately. We presented metaphors (These lawyers are hyenas, Experiment 1a and 1b) and producer-for-product metonymies (The boy read Böll, Experiment 2a and 2b) with and without a prime word that was semantically relevant to the literal meaning of the target word (furry and talented, respectively). In the presentation without priming, metaphors revealed a biphasic N400-Late Positivity pattern, while metonymies showed an N400 only. We interpret the findings within a two-phase language architecture where contextual expectations guide initial access (N400) and precede pragmatic adjustment resulting in reconceptualization (Late Positivity). With masked priming, the N400-difference was reduced for metaphors and vanished for metonymies. This speaks against the direct access view that predicts a facilitating effect for the literal condition only and hence would predict the N400-difference to increase. The results are more consistent with indirect access accounts that argue for facilitation effects for both conditions and consequently for consistent or even smaller N400-amplitude differences. This combined masked priming ERP paradigm therefore yields new insights into the role of literal meaning in the online composition of figurative language.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus