Syntactic and Semantic Factors in Processing Gender Agreement in Hebrew: Evidence from ERPs and Eye Movements

Avital Deutsch*, Shlomo Bentin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


The interrelation between syntactic analysis of agreement and semantic processing was examined by recording eye movements and event-related potentials. Subject-predicate gender agreement was manipulated within Hebrew sentences. The subject was either animate or inanimate, with conceptual gender denoted by the subject's morphological structure. First-pass reading time was found to be longer for incongruent predicates than of congruent predicates but only if the predicate's gender was morphologically marked. Furthermore, this effect was larger in the animate than in the inanimate condition. Second-pass reading time was also prolonged by gender incongruity but this effect was not affected by either markedness or animacy. Gender incongruity enhanced the amplitude of an early negative potential (ostensibly ELAN), of a later negative potential (N400), and of a positive potential (P600). Like first-pass reading time, the congruity effect on the syntactically modulated P600 was significant only for marked predicates, but it did not interact with animacy. In contrast, the congruity effect on the semantically modulated N400 was significant only in the animate condition. The N400 was not affected by markedness. The congruity effect on the early negativity did not interact with either animacy or markedness. The interaction between semantic and syntactic processing and its time course are discussed within the framework set by interactive, constraint-based models for online sentence processing.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)200-224
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a grant from the National Institute for Psychobiology in Israel, founded by the Charles E. Smith Family to A.D., and by Grant # 01994 from NICHD to S.B. through Haskins Laboratories. We thank Tamar Aharony, Gad On, Irit Shapira, and Nomi Wexler for their extensive help and assistance in preparing the stimuli and running the experiments.


  • ERP
  • Eye movements
  • Gender agreement
  • N400
  • P600


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