Saliency or template? ERP evidence for long-term representation of word stress.
The present study investigated the event-related brain potential (ERP) correlates of word stress processing. Previous results showed that the violation of a legal stress pattern elicited two consecutive Mismatch Negativity (MMN) components synchronized to the changes on the first and second syllable. The aim of the present study was to test whether ERPs reflect only the detection of salient features present on the syllables, or they reflect the activation of long-term stress related representations. We examined ERPs elicited by pseudowords with no lexical representation in two conditions: the standard having a legal stress patterns, and the deviant an illegal one, and the standard having an illegal stress pattern, and the deviant a legal one. We found that the deviant having an illegal stress pattern elicited two consecutive MMN components, whereas the deviant having a legal stress pattern did not elicit MMN. Moreover, pseudowords with a legal stress pattern elicited the same ERP responses irrespective of their role in the oddball sequence, i.e., if they were standards or deviants. The results suggest that stress pattern changes are processed relying on long-term representation of word stress. To account for these results, we propose that the processing of stress cues is based on language-specific, pre-lexical stress templates. Copyright © 2012. Published by Elsevier B.V.