Identification of grammatical functions in two languages

Mark Leikin, Elina Ritvas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The present study examined differences in brain activity, specifically in Event-Related Potential (ERP) amplitudes and latencies in bilingual and monolingual (Russian/Hebrew and Hebrew) readers when processing the grammatical functions of words during the reading of sentences in two languages (Russian and Hebrew). Two groups of university students participated in the study: native speakers of Russian and native speakers of Hebrew. Results indicated significant differences in brain activity and its localization between Russian and Hebrew speakers during processes of the grammatical functions of words in first and second languages (for the bilingual group), as reflected by ERP measures and LORETA-Key analysis. In both groups of participants, P100, P200, P300, N400, and P600 ERP waves were identified for three grammatical functions (subject, predicate, and direct object) in each sentence, for all reading items and in both languages. Analysis of the results showed that participants used different strategies to identify the grammatical functions of words in their native languages. The results appear to confirm the hypothesis (Leikin, 2002) that Hebrew readers identify the grammatical functions of words, at least partly, through their lexical-morphological properties, while simultaneously using word order as well. By contrast, native speakers of Russian use morphologically-based, noun-oriented strategies. The findings are consistent with results reported in recent literature showing that grammatical processing in a second language is fundamentally different from grammatical processing in one’s native language.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCurrent Issues in Bilingualism
Subtitle of host publicationCognitive and Socio-linguistic Perspectives
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9789400723276
ISBN (Print)9789400723269
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012.


  • Bilingualism
  • ERP
  • Grammatical functions
  • Hebrew
  • Russian
  • Syntactic processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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