Processing Consequences of Onomatopoeic Iconicity in Spoken Language Comprehension


Iconicity is a fundamental feature of human language. However its processing consequences at the behavioral and neural level in spoken word comprehension are not well understood. The current paper presents the behavioral and electrophysiological outcome of an auditory lexical decision task in which native speakers of Dutch listened to onomatopoeic words and matched control words while their electroencephalogram was recorded. Behaviorally, onomatopoeic words were processed as quickly and accurately as words with an arbitrary mapping between form and meaning. Event-related potentials time-locked to word onset revealed a significant decrease in negative amplitude in the N2 and N400 components and a late positivity for onomatopoeic words in comparison to the control words. These findings advance our understanding of the temporal dynamics of iconic form-meaning mapping in spoken word comprehension and suggest interplay between the neural representations of real-world sounds and spoken words.

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