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Sentence and discourse processing

General details of the subject

Face-to-face degree course

Description and contextualization of the subject

Theories of language and discourse comprehension; Neurocognitive models; Methodological approaches; Sentence and discourse production

Teaching staff

NameInstitutionCategoryDoctorTeaching profileAreaE-mail
MOLINARO , NICOLABCBL- Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and
QUIÑONES GONZALEZ, ILEANABCBL- Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and


CE1. Advanced knowledge of sentence and discourse processing.25.0 %
CE2. Main research techniques in sentence and discourse processing.25.0 %
CE3. Evaluating research processes and products in sentence and discourse processing.25.0 %
CE4. Applying course content to areas of intervention, problems and demands of social and cultural contexts.25.0 %

Study types

TypeFace-to-face hoursNon face-to-face hoursTotal hours
Applied classroom-based groups101020
Applied computer-based groups102535

Assessment systems

NameMinimum weightingMaximum weighting
Practical tasks50.0 % 50.0 %
Presentations50.0 % 50.0 %


Understanding sentences is an automatic and mostly effortless operation. However, psycholinguistic research in the last 20 years has shown that various factors have an impact in the rapidity and easiness with which we analyze and interpret sentences.

This course is designed to provide an advanced understanding of human sentence processing looking at the different aspects that come into play during their parsing: syntactic and semantic-discourse analysis, but also ambiguity and the resolution of local and long-distance relationships. To this end, the discussion of the main sentence processing models and findings will be preceded by an introduction to basic syntax concepts. Methodological and theoretical issues will be considered alongside each other. Neurophysiological correlates of semantic and syntactic violations within a sentence context will be presented and their theoretical implications will be discussed.

The aim of the course is to provide students with tools to evaluate and perform primary research on sentence comprehension both critically and independently.


Compulsory materials

There is no textbook for this class, a list of readings selected from scholarly articles and book chapters will be provided at the beginning of the course.

Basic bibliography

Altmann, G.T.M. (1998). Ambiguity in sentence processing. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2(4), 1-7.

Altmann, G.T.M., & Kamide, Y. (1999). Incremental interpretation at verbs: Restricting the domain of subsequent reference. Cognition, 73, 247-264.

Bock, K. (1996). Language production: Methods and methodologies. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 3(4), 395-421.

Bock, K., & Levelt, W. (1994). Language Production: Grammatical encoding. In M.A. Gernsbacher (Ed.), Handbook of psycholinguistics, Academic Press, pp. 945 - 984.

Bornkessel, Ina & Matthias Schlesewsky (2006), The extended argument dependency model: A neurocognitive approach to sentence comprehension across languages, Psychological Review 113:787{821.

Farmer, T. A., Christiansen, M. H., & Monaghan, P. (2006). Phonological typicality influences on-line sentence comprehension. Proc. National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 103, 12203-12208.

Ferreira, V. S. (2008). Ambiguity, accessibility, and a division of labor for communicative success. Psychology of Learning and Motivation.

Fodor, J. D., & Ferreira, F. (1998). Reanalysis in sentence processing. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

Frazier, L. & Clifton, Jr., C. (1996). Construal. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Friederici, A. D. (2002). Toward a neural basis of auditory sentence processing. Trends in cognitive Sciences, 6, 78-84

Gibson, E. (2000). The dependency-locality theory: A distance-based theory of linguistic complexity. In Miyashita, I., Marantz, A., & O¿Neil, W. (Eds.), Image, language, brain: Papers from the first mind articulation symposium (pp. 94-126). Cambridge, MA, USA: The MIT Press.

Gordon, P. C., Hendrick, R., & Levine, W.H. (2002). Memory-load interference in syntactic processing. Psychological Science, 13, 425-430.

Grodner, D., & Gibson, E. (2005). Consequences of the serial nature of linguistic input for sentential complexity. Cognitive Science, 29, 261-290.

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