Bihemispheric sensitivity to sentence anomaly

Christine Chiarello, Stella Liu, Miriam Faust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This study investigated cerebral asymmetries in sensitivity to sentence-level semantic anomaly. To separate the effects of anomalous message processing from those attributable to low sentence constraint, low-constraint sentence-fragment primes were followed by target words presented to the left or right visual fields. When completed by the target word, the sentences represented either normal or anomalous messages; in addition, one-half of the sentence primes contained a word strongly related to the target. Targets presented to both the left and right visual fields were advantaged by the presence of a related word, and disadvantaged by the presence of a semantically anomalous message. Contrary to some previous claims, this result implies that the right hemisphere can construct some message-level interpretations from sentences, such that semantic anomaly is registered, even if finer gradations of sentence constraint are not. This rudimentary integration of word meanings in sentences may provide a scaffolding for right hemisphere discourse processing. In light of these findings, we propose a revised view of left/right hemisphere differences in the processes used to interpret sentence meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1451-1463
Number of pages13
Issue number13
StatePublished - 18 Oct 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the US–Israel Binational Science Foundation, grant 94-00112. The authors thank Ron Hasbrooke, Sean Grant, Nancy Quan, Norana Caivano, Ramana Duvvuri, Sheryl Militar and Natalie Kacinik for their assistance with this project.


  • Laterality
  • Semantic anomaly
  • Semantic processing
  • Sentence priming


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