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Keywords:

  • Language;
  • ERPs;
  • Pragmatic anomalies;
  • Discourse context;
  • Common ground;
  • N400

Abstract

Readers typically experience processing difficulty when they encounter a word that is anomalous within the local context, such as “The cat picked up the chainsaw.” In an ERP study, we demonstrate that by placing such a sentence in a fictional scenario that is well known to the reader (e.g., a Tom and Jerry cartoon), the N400 effect usually associated with these pragmatic anomalies can be eliminated. This finding suggests that readers can rapidly integrate information from their common ground while interpreting incoming text and provides further evidence that incoming words are immediately evaluated within the global discourse.