Neural evidence for the processing of referential ambiguity and referential failure in Spanish

Nick Feroce, Robert Fiorentino, Lauren Covey, Alison Gabriele

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The present study uses event-related potentials (ERPs) to examine how native Spanish speakers comprehend overt pronouns in two referentially challenging contexts: Sentences in which a pronoun has two gender-matching antecedents (referential ambiguity), and sentences in which there are no gender-matching antecedents (referential failure). Participants read these sentences for comprehension while their brain activity was recorded. Results revealed a sustained positivity for referentially ambiguous pronouns, in contrast to a sustained negativity observed in previous studies of English and Dutch, and a positivity (P600) for referential failure, in line with previous studies. There was no relationship between ERPs and working memory measures. These results suggest that speakers of different languages may differ in how they process referential ambiguity, but not referential failure.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCurrent Theoretical and Applied Perspectives on Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics
EditorsDiego Pascual y Cabo, Idoia Elola
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9789027261281
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameIssues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics
ISSN (Print)2213-3887


  • Anaphora
  • ERPs
  • Individual differences
  • Pronouns
  • Spanish


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