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Tesi etd-09242012-151534

Thesis type
Tesi di laurea magistrale
Processing Telicity in the Brain: A psycholinguistic perspective
Corso di studi
relatore Romagno, Domenica
correlatore Ricciardi, Emiliano
controrelatore Nicolai, Florida
Parole chiave
  • cognitive neuroscience
  • neurolinguistics
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • cognitive science
  • priming
  • TMS
  • psycholinguistics
  • telicity
  • verb semantics
Data inizio appello
Data di rilascio
Riassunto analitico
Telicity is a semantic property encased in event structure, describing events endowed with a natural endpoint: to die, arrive, leave and similar predicates are telic, whereas to run, swim and similar predicates are atelic (Vendler, 1957; Comrie, 1976; Bertinetto, 1986). Telicity can be either construal, i.e. determined by phrase structure (“to run a mile”), or inherent in the lexeme itself (“to die”). In Role and Reference Grammar (RRG: Foley & Van Valin, 1984, etc.), telicity is represented in the logical structure (LS) of predicates as leading to a change in the state of the direct internal argument. is thesis examined the general hypothesis that telicity is represented in cognition, thus leading to priming effects in a covert semantic judgement task: we report a behavioral pilot study conducted on 35 Italian native subjects. e experiment was conducted on 20 subjects (experiment 1) and then repeated on 15 more subjects (experiment 1.a). Subjects saw pairs of words presented visually: the cue was an Italian in finitive (telic/atelic) or a control string (“xxxxx”) which remained available for 800ms (Stymulus Onset Asynchrony, SOA); the target was an Italian verb form (telic/atelic) inflected in first or third person singular. Subjects had to respond on inflection, pressing either 1 on a computer keyboard if the verb was in flected in first person, or 3 if it was inflected in third person. e Person variable was functional to our purpose of covertly assessing the e ffect of verb meaning in a priming protocol and differentiates our study from the reported body of literature on verb semantics and priming. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was performed on our experimental variables and their interactions: Cue (telic, atelic, control), Target (telic, atelic), Person ( first, third). Results show a main cue effect: telic cues yielded faster reaction times than atelic cues and control cues; a main person effect: first person targets yielded faster reaction times than third person targets; an interaction between cue and person: reaction times for telic cues and first person targets were faster overall. As regards the Cue effect, shorter reaction times for telic cues remained highly signi ficant across measurements: in post-hoc analysis, Bonferroni's correction on mean reaction times showed a tendency for telic cues being faster than atelic cues (p=0.0185), and signi ficantly faster than control cues (p<0.0001); likewise, we observed a significant difference for telic cues on median reaction times which remained significant after Bonferroni's correction: telic cues were signi ficantly faster than atelic cues (p=0.0098) and control cues (p=0.0037).
As regards the Person effect, we argue that first person is easier to process due to being the form in which the speaker posits himself as a “subject” (“"Ego" is he who says –ego–“ Benveniste, 1966, p.224) at the Langue level, whereas “we must bear in mind that the third person is the form of the verbal (or pronominal) paradigm that does not refer to a person because it refers to an object located outside direct address” (Benveniste, 1966, p.229); moreover, in Italian the first person is also the citation form for verbs so that, in this sense, it is unmarked in comparison to the third person. As regards the interaction between first person and telic cue, on the grounds of what we have just argued based on Benveniste's theory of person relationships in language, we propose that telicity is easier to represent when involving subjectivity ( first person) rather than a referent located outside direct address and not necessarily linked to a person in a strict sense (third person).