The Journal of China Universities of Posts and Telecommunications ›› 2021, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (3): 102-110.doi: 10.19682/j.cnki.1005-8885.2021.0021

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Using an improved sentence paradigm of event-related potentials to examine puns’cognitive mechanism

Si-Qin YANG1,   

  • Received:2020-09-21 Revised:2020-12-21 Online:2021-06-30 Published:2021-06-22


In order to specify brain temporal dynamics difference between two representative puns, homonymic and semantic puns, alternate presentation of words and phrase ( APWP) paradigm was proposed. The highlight of APWP paradigm is to make sentences strictly presented in word-phrase-word-phrase-word forms, which helps relieve visual  fatigue of the monotonous presentation form and prevent disturbance by the settled position of the ending word. Following the APWP paradigm, participants are invited to read puns presenting in word-phrase-word-phrase-word forms. Meanwhile, event-related potential (ERP) was adopted to record their electroencephalogram (EEG) data. By observing two linguistic cognitive indexes of EEG data, N400 and P600 caused by puns, it was found that there were significant difference of logical mechanisms between homonymic and semantic puns. For homonymic puns, a significant P600 effect without any obvious N400 amplitude was elicited for the pronunciation of heterograph. For semantic puns, an apparent N400 amplitude might reflect ambiguities and comprehensive difficulty of a homonym into its discourse context. This study also conveyed that the APWP paradigm proved to be a good model for sentences research, which can be applied to other linguistic phenomena of complete context, such as metaphor, irony and jokes, sentence pattern and syntactic research.

Key words:

alternate presentation of words and phrase (APWP) paradigm, cognitive processing, puns, even-related potential (ERP)