Postersession 1
Poster #: 118
Topic: Speech and language (incl. deficits)
Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015
1st floor

Your Chinese is different from mine? Conventionalization of constructions as indicated by mismatch negativity

Yuchun Chang1, Chia-Lin Lee2, & Hans-Jörg Schmid3

1Graduate School Language & Literature Munich - Class of Language, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, München, Germany
2Graduate Institute of Linguistics/Department of Psychology, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
3Institut für Englische Philologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, München, Germany

Over the past decades, grammarians have extensively debated over whether grammar in the cognitive system is innate, i.e., intact from experience, or emergent, i.e., shaped by repeated exposure to usage events and linked to linguistic units' degrees of conventionalization in the speech community. This study compares mismatch negativity responses to constructions conventionalized in a specific speech community (the local churches) but not in the general society in Taiwan (namely community-specific constructions), with responses to constructions conventionalized both in the specific speech community and the general society in Taiwan (namely community-general constructions), among members in the specific speech community and outsiders in the general society. In doing so, two levels of constructions covering a different range of the schematicity continuum are examined: (1) two-character lexical-level constructions (community-specific 聖別 sheng4 bie2 'sanctified' vs. community-general 聖潔 sheng4 jie2 'holy') and (2) two-character constructions containing a verb and an object (community-specific 吃主 chi1 zhu3 'eat the Lord' vs. community-general 吃補 chi1 bu3 'eat nutritious food'). The results showed (1) greater MMN differences between community-specific/-general constructions for outsiders than for members at the lexical level, and vice versa at the VN phrase level; (2) greater MMNs for community-specific than for community-general constructions at the lexical level, and vice versa at the VN phrase level. While implying sensitivity of MMN to sociopragmatic factors such as conventionalization, these findings are interpreted in terms of critical influences of linguistic usage on linguistic knowledge in the mind, as well as the emergent nature of grammar.