Nouns and verbs in Chinese are processed differently: Evidence from an ERP study on monosyllabic and disyllabic word processing

Quansheng Xia, Lan Wang, Gang Peng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This event-related potential (ERP) study aims to investigate the neural processing of nouns and verbs in Chinese, especially the processing of monosyllabic nouns (MNs) and verbs (MVs) versus disyllabic nouns (DNs) and verbs (DVs). All four types of words were embedded in syntactically well-defined contexts and a semantic relatedness judgment task was performed. Results showed that, regardless of the number of syllables, verbs elicited more negative N400 than nouns, which may be due to the semantic difference between object and action rather than concreteness or imageability. Furthermore, DVs elicited a greater N1 and a smaller late positive component than DNs whereas such differences were absent in the comparison between MNs and MVs. The N1 and late positive component seem to reflect the early detection and late integration of the syntactic mismatch between the verb contexts and noun usage of DVs, respectively. The findings of the current study indicated that the word class effect in Chinese is due to the semantic differences between nouns and verbs, calling into attention the importance of distinguishing monosyllabic words from disyllabic words when examining the word class effect in Chinese.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-78
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Chinese
  • Late positive component
  • N1
  • N400
  • Syntactic ambiguity
  • Word class effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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