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Morphological encoding in German children's language production: evidence from event-related brain potentials*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2016

ANNA JESSEN
Affiliation:
Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism (PRIM), University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
ELISABETH FLEISCHHAUER
Affiliation:
Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism (PRIM), University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
HARALD CLAHSEN*
Affiliation:
Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism (PRIM), University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
*
Address for correspondence: Harald Clahsen, University of Potsdam, Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24–25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany. E-mail: harald.clahsen@uni-potsdam.de

Abstract

This study reports developmental changes in morphological encoding across late childhood. We examined event-related brain potentials (ERPs) during the silent production of regularly vs. irregularly inflected verb forms (viz. -t vs. -n participles of German) in groups of eight- to ten-year-olds, eleven- to thirteen-year-olds, and adults. The adult data revealed an enhanced (right-frontal) negativity 300–450 ms after cue onset for the (silent) production of -t relative to -n past participle forms (e.g. geplant vs. gehauen ‘planned’ vs. ‘hit’). For the eleven- to thirteen-year-olds, the same enhanced negativity was found, with a more posterior distribution and a longer duration (=300–550 ms). The eight- to ten-year-olds also showed this negativity, again with a posterior distribution, but with a considerably delayed onset (800–1,000 ms). We suggest that this negativity reflects combinatorial processing required for producing -t participles in both children and adults and that the spatial and temporal modulations of this ERP effect across the three participant groups are due to developmental changes of the brain networks involved in processing morphologically complex words.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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Footnotes

[*]

The research reported here was supported by an Alexander-von-Humboldt-Professorship to HC and a Cusanuswerk studentship to EF. We are grateful to the members of the Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism for detailed and helpful comments on the present work.

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