[PS-1.14] Discontinuous particle verbs in German sentence comprehension

Czypionka, A. 1 , Golcher , F. . 2 , Eulitz, C. . 1 & Bayer , J. . 1

1 Universität Konstanz
2 Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Separable particle verbs in German (or Dutch) consist of a particle and a base (German aufstehen, up-stand, `to stand up?). In main clauses, the base (stehen) is moved to V2, while the particle (auf) remains in the clause-final position. Therefore, German main clauses are semantically ambiguous until the clause-final position, when it is revealed if the base combines with a particle that can completely alter the meaning of the sentence.
We present data on the syntactic ambiguity caused by split particle verbs in German main clause comprehension. Using acceptability, self-paced reading and ERP measurements, we compare a grammatical baseline condition with nominative-accusative-assigning particle verbs to
(1)ungrammatical sentences with existing intransitive particle-base-combinations
(2)ungrammatical sentences with nonexisting particle-base-combinations
(3)grammatical sentences with existing transitive particle-base-combinations assigning nominative-dative.
Both ungrammatical conditions elicited an N400 on the clause-final particle, matching findings from earlier studies on the semantic ambiguity of split particle verbs. In addition, we find a graded P600 for both ungrammatical conditions not previously reported.
Subtle differences between the baseline and third condition reveal lexical case marking effects. We will discuss why these can only be caused by lexical, not syntactic or semantic, processing differences between accusative- and dative-assigning particle verbs.