An event-related brain potential experiment was carried out to investigate the influence of semantic and syntactic context constraints on lexical selection and integration in spoken-word comprehension. Subjects were presented with constraining spoken sentences that contained a critical word that was either (a) congruent, (b) semantically and syntactically incongruent, but beginning with the same initial phonemes as the congruent critical word, or (c) semantically and syntactically incongruent, beginning with phonemes that differed from the congruent critical word. Relative to the congruent condition, an N200 effect reflecting difficulty in the lexical selection process was obtained in the semantically and syntactically incongruent condition where word onset differed from that of the congruent critical word. Both incongruent conditions elicited a large N400 followed by a left anterior negativity (LAN) time-locked to the moment of word category violation and a P600 effect. These results would best fit within a cascaded model of spoken-word processing, proclaiming an optimal use of contextual information during spoken-word identification by allowing for semantic and syntactic processing to take place in parallel after bottom-up activation of a set of candidates, and lexical integration to proceed with a limited number of candidates that still match the acoustic input.

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