Filler-Gap Processing in Mandarin Relative Clauses: Evidence from Event-Related Potentials

Jerome L. Packard, Zheng Ye, Xiaolin Zhou

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter reports the results of an Event-Related Potential (ERP) study of relative clause processing in Mandarin Chinese. The objective of this research is to determine whether electrophysiological evidence of filler-gap integration costs found for other languages would be observed in Mandarin and to determine where in the relative clause filler-gap integration occurs. To pursue these goals, we analyze ERP data obtained from 20 Mandarin speakers as they read sentences containing subject-gap and object-gap relative clauses modifying the subjects and objects of matrix sentences. Our results indicate a larger P600 ERP component for subject-gap than object-gap relative clauses at the point in the clause where the filler is integrated with the antecedent gap. That effect was found on the relative clause marker de for clauses modifying the matrix subject and on the relative clause head for clauses modifying the matrix object. We interpret our results as supporting the hypothesis that the difficulty of integrating verb arguments is reflected in the magnitude of the P600 ERP component and that in Mandarin relative clauses, subject-gap arguments are more difficult to integrate than object-gap arguments. Based on these findings, we argue that in Mandarin, relative clause verb selectional restrictions may be satisfied in real time either by the relative clause head or by the relative clause marker de, depending on where the relative clause is located within the matrix sentence.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProcessing and Producing Head-final Structures
EditorsHiroko Yamashita, Yuki Hirose, Jerome L Packard
ISBN (Print)978-90-481-9212-0, 978-90-481-9213-7
StatePublished - 2011

Publication series

NameStudies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics
ISSN (Print)1873-0043


  • Chinese
  • P600
  • Integration
  • Filler-gap
  • ERP


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