In many languages with flexible word orders, canonical word order has a processing advantage over non-canonical word orders. This observation suggests that it is more costly for the parser to represent syntactically complex sentences. Alternatively, this phenomenon may relate to pragmatic factors because most previous studies have presented non-canonical word orders without felicitous context, which violates participants’ expectations regarding the information structure. The present study conducted an event-related potential experiment to examine the locus of the processing difficulty associated with non-canonical word orders in Japanese by manipulating word order (SOV vs. OSV) and the givenness of arguments. The results showed that OSV elicited a sustained left anterior negativity from O to S and a P600 effect at S compared to that of SOV in the infelicitous but not in the felicitous context. This result suggests that the processing difficulty of non-canonical word orders in Japanese is alleviated by discourse factors.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes