The neuronal reality of the nominal hierarchy [Elektronische Ressource] : fMRI observations on animacy in sentence comprehension / vorgelegt von Tanja Grewe

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The Neuronal Reality of the Nominal Hierarchy: fMRI Observations on Animacy in Sentence Comprehension Inaugural-Dissertation zur Erlangung des akademischen Grades eines Doktors der Philosophie (Dr. phil.) dem Fachbereich Germanistik und Kunstwissenschaften der Philipps-Universität Marburg vorgelegt von Tanja Grewe geb. in Rahden Marburg/Lahn 2006 Vom Fachbereich Germanistik und Kunstwissenschaften der Philipps-Universität Marburg als Dissertation angenommen am 18.10.2006 Tag der mündlichen Prüfung/Disputation am 20.12.2006 Gutachter: Prof. Dr. Matthias Schlesewsky Prof. Dr. Richard Wiese Acknowledgements There are various people who provided me with continued support throughout this exciting research. I would especially like to thank my two advisors, Matthias Schlesewsky and Richard Wiese, for their kind help, guidance and encouragement at the University of Marburg. I would also like to deeply thank Ina Bornkessel as my “Patin“ and external advisor. Ina and Matthias provided me with generous time and commitment, and I would like to express my sincere appreciation for their inspiring enthusiam and passion about language. I am grateful to Angela Friederici and D.

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The Neuronal Reality of the Nominal Hierarchy:
fMRI Observations on Animacy in
Sentence Comprehension


Inaugural-Dissertation

zur
Erlangung des akademischen Grades
eines Doktors der Philosophie (Dr. phil.)


dem
Fachbereich Germanistik und Kunstwissenschaften
der Philipps-Universität Marburg
vorgelegt

von
Tanja Grewe
geb. in Rahden



Marburg/Lahn 2006

























Vom Fachbereich Germanistik und Kunstwissenschaften der Philipps-Universität
Marburg als Dissertation angenommen am 18.10.2006

Tag der mündlichen Prüfung/Disputation am 20.12.2006

Gutachter: Prof. Dr. Matthias Schlesewsky
Prof. Dr. Richard Wiese

Acknowledgements

There are various people who provided me with continued support throughout this
exciting research. I would especially like to thank my two advisors, Matthias
Schlesewsky and Richard Wiese, for their kind help, guidance and encouragement at the
University of Marburg. I would also like to deeply thank Ina Bornkessel as my “Patin“
and external advisor. Ina and Matthias provided me with generous time and
commitment, and I would like to express my sincere appreciation for their inspiring
enthusiam and passion about language.
I am grateful to Angela Friederici and D. Yves von Cramon for showing great
interest in my research and for giving me the oppurtunity to collect my experimental
data at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. A
special thanks also goes to Stefan Zysset, whose technical advice in the analysis of
functional neuroimaging data has been of great value. For their kind help with the
acquisition of fMRI data, I thank Mandy Naumann, Annett Wiedemann, Simone
Wipper, Anke Kummer, Domenica Wilfing and Petra Erz.
I further acknowledge the support of the graduate program “Neuronal
representation and action control (GK 885/1)“, which was funded by the German
Research Foundation (DFG)
Right from the start, I have greatly benefited from the welcoming atmosphere in
our research group. Special thanks are due to Ulrike Janßen, my kind and supportive
officemate, and Johannes Knaus, whose expertise in computers was a real help every
now and then.
A particular thanks also goes to my family and friends for their support, their
encouraging words and their friendship.
Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank my wonderful husband
Oliver for his continuing patience and for keeping my life in balance. He has always
been there.
Table of Contents

1. Introduction ______________________________________________ 1
2. An Overview 4
2.1 Language-specific linearization rules __________________________________ 4
2.1.1 Subject > indirect object > direct object_____________________________ 6
2.1.2 Pronominal > non-pronominal____ 9
2.1.3 Definite > indefinite___________ 11
2.1.4 Thematically higher-ranked > thematically lower-ranked ______________ 13
2.1.5 Animate > inanimate___________________________________________ 15
2.2 Interactions between linearization rules _______________________________ 18
2.2.1 Competition-based approaches___ 18
2.2.2 Optimality-theoretic approaches__ 20
2.3 Previous empirical findings on word order variations_____________________ 30
2.3.1 Behavioral data _______________________________________________ 30
2.3.2 Neurophysiological data________ 33
2.3.3 Neuroanatomical data__________ 35
2.4 Animacy from a theoretical perspective _______________________________ 40
2.5 The influence of animacy in sentence comprehension ____________________ 44
2.5.1 Background__________________________________________________ 44
2.5.2 The present perspective________ 47
3. Summary and Outlook____ 55
4. References_______________________________________________ 62
5. Experimental Studies_____ 71
I 6. Experiment 1:
Linguistic Prominence and Broca’s Area:
The Influence of Animacy as a Linearization Principle _________ 72
6.1 Introduction _____________________________________________________ 73
6.2 Materials and methods_____________ 79
6.2.1 Participants__________________ 79
6.2.2 Materials____________________ 79
6.2.3 Procedure___________________ 79
6.2.4 fMRI data acquisition __________________________________________ 80
6.2.5 fMRI data analysis____________ 80
6.3 Results _________________________________________________________ 83
6.3.1 Behavioral data_______________ 83
6.3.2 fMRI data___________________ 83
6.4 Discussion______________________ 89
6.5 Conclusions_____________________ 92
6.6 References ________________________________ 93
7. Experiment 2:
The Role of the Posterior Superior Temporal
Sulcus in the Processing of Unmarked Transitivity_____________ 98
7.1 Introduction _____________________________________________________ 99
7.2 Materials and methods____________ 106
7.2.1 Participants_________________ 106
7.2.2 Materials___________________ 106
7.2.3 Procedure__________________ 107
7.2.4 fMRI data acquisition _________________________________________ 107
7.2.5 fMRI data analysis___________ 108
II 7.3 Results ________________________________________________________ 110
7.3.1 Behavioral data______________ 110
7.3.2 fMRI data__________________ 110
7.4 Discussion_____________________ 118
7.4.1 Posterior superior temporal sulcus _______________________________ 118
7.4.2 Inferior frontal gyrus, pars opercularis ____________________________ 120
7.5 Conclusions ____________________________________________________ 123
7.6 References_____________________ 124
8. Experiment 3:
The Emergence of the Unmarked: A New Perspective
on the Language-specific Function of Broca’s Area ___________ 129
8.1 Introduction ____________________________________________________ 130
8.2 Materials and methods____________ 136
8.2.1 Participants_________________ 136
8.2.2 Materials___________________ 136
8.2.3 Procedure__________________ 137
8.2.4 fMRI data acquisition _________________________________________ 137
8.2.5 fMRI data analysis___________ 138
8.3 Results ________________________________________________________ 140
8.3.1 Behavioral data______________ 140
8.3.2 fMRI data__________________ 142
8.4 Discussion_____________________ 148
8.4.1 Broca’s region, language and working memory 148
8.4.2 Broca’s region, language and transformations ______________________ 149
8.4.3 Broca’s region and sentence acceptability _________________________ 150
8.4.4 Broca’s region and the linearization of linguistic hierarchies __________ 151
8.4.5 The role of the deep frontal operculum / anterior insula ______________ 153
8.5 Conclusions ____________________________________________________ 155
8.6 References_____________________ 156

III Appendix
Curriculum Vitae ______________________________________________________ A
Abstract (English) _____________________________________________________ B
Abstract (German) _____________________________________________________ C

IV









The possibilities are numerous
once we decide to act and not react.

George Bernard Shaw


1. INTRODUCTION

1. Introduction
Animacy makes a fundamental contribution to the categorization of everyday
experiences. In this way, the differentiation between ‘animate’ and ‘inanimate’ entities
is important for the identification of potentially more or less causative characters and
may be carried out by using several modalities. In contrast to inanimate characters,
animates are able to move willfully and make noise which can be detected visually,
tactually and also auditorily. While movements and sounds play a role in the processing
of animacy in humans and animals, animacy is also a decisive feature in language,
which is exclusive to humans. Strikingly, the differentiation between animate and
inanimate entities is of crucial importance within the whole domain of higher cognitive
abilities, hence rendering animacy one of the most important concepts in higher
cognition.
Cross-linguistic research revealed a three-tiered animacy hierarchy ranking at
least humans over animals and animals over inanimates. The consequences of this
animacy hierarchy are reflected by different linguistic properties depending on the
language under consideration. In some languages, animacy information has an influence
on word order (e.g. German, Finnish), in others case marking is morphologically
determined by this feature and an effect of animacy on sentence interpretation can be
observed (e.g. Fore, Hindi). Consequently, these observations of a widespread influence
of animacy give rise to the assumption that “animacy is a universal conceptual category
that exists independently of its realization in any particular language“ (Comrie, 1989, p.
186).
The aim of the present thesis is to shed light on the impact of animacy on
sentence processing in German. Although animacy is a purely semantic feature, an
influence of this parameter on syntactic structure has been observed such that animate
arguments should precede inanimate arguments within the German middle field (e.g.
Gestern wurde dem Redakteur der Artikel präsentiert; yesterday was [the editor] A-OBJ
[the article] presented). Since German is a language with flexible word order, the I-SUBJ
order of the two arguments can also be changed, as demonstrated in the sentence
Gestern wurde der Artikel dem Redakteur präsentiert; yesterday was [the article] I-SUBJ
[the editor] presented. Although both sentences are grammatically correct, the A-OBJ
linearization of arguments within the latter sentence is unexpected with respect to
1 1. INTRODUCTION

animacy. Nevertheless, this sentence reflects the preferred subject-before-object order
which is violated in the first example. These examples clearly demonstrate that an
investigation of the influence of animacy in the linearization of arguments requires a
differentiation of word order changes on account of this semantic feature and word
order changes that must be attributed to the influence of further linearization principles.
Besides the influence of animacy on the linearization of arguments, this feature
is also interesting from a relational point of view. The most natural kind of a transitive
sentence comprises an information flow from the causer of an event which is high in
animacy to the argument that is lower in animacy and agency. Besides this unmarked
transitive sentence structure, German also allows for an asymmetrical and therefore less
“natural“ distribution in which either both arguments are animate (Gestern hat der
Redakteur den Mitarbeiter entdeckt, yesterday has [the editor] [the colleague] A-SUBJ A-OBJ
discovered) or the assignment of animacy is even completely reversed (Gestern hat der
Artikel den Redakteur überrascht, yesterday has [the article] [the editor] I-SUBJ A-OBJ
surprised). However, such asymmetrical distributions are supposed to result in
deviations from the unmarked transitive sentence structure indicating that the relation
between sentential arguments at least partially depends on their animacy.
After previous behavioral and neurophysiological data provided evidence for an
influence of animacy in syntactic processing the present work aims to examine
neuroanatomical correlates of this semantic feature. This thesis reports three
experiments investigating both the influence of animacy on the linearization of word
order and its relational effect in sentence processing.
This thesis essentially consists of two parts. The first part (chapters 1 to 4)
summarizes content and tenor of the whole dissertation, ranging from an introduction to
the theoretical background on word order variation in German to a discussion and
interpretation of the neuroanatomical findings on animacy in syntactic processing
within the present work. The second part (chapters 5 to 8) comprises three articles, each
of which presents the results of one neuroimaging study in the context of word order
variations and the impact of animacy on German sentence comprehension.
In chapter 2, an overview of principles from different linguistic domains
determining the linearization within the German middle field will be given (section 2.1).
Since the separate consideration of these linearization principles suggests the necessity
of a ranking of the rules on the one hand and interactions between several rules on the
2