EEG correlates of long-distance dependency formation in mandarin wh-questions


Event-related potential components are sensitive to the processes underlying how questions are understood. We use so-called “covert” wh-questions in Mandarin to probe how such components generalize across different kinds of constructions. This study shows that covert Mandarin wh-questions do not elicit anterior negativities associated with memory maintenance, even when such a dependency is unambiguously cued. N = 37 native speakers of Mandarin Chinese read Chinese questions and declarative sentences word-by-word during EEG recording. In contrast to prior studies, no sustained anterior negativity (SAN) was observed between the cue word, such as the question-embedding verb “wonder,” and the in-situ wh-filler. SANs have been linked with working memory maintenance, suggesting that grammatical features may not impose the same maintenance demands as the content words used in prior work.

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience