Sentence Production and Comprehension
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleSOW-DGCN17
Credits (ECTS)6
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Social Sciences; Cognitive Neuroscience;
dr. D.J. Chwilla
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. F. Huettig
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. H.J. Schriefers
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. H.J. Schriefers
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. H.J. Schriefers
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2017
SEM2  (05/02/2018 to 13/07/2018)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesNo
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-

Language use requires more than just recognizing or producing words. Rather, words form the building blocks of phrases, sentences, texts, and conversations. The course will give an in depth introduction to phrase, sentence and text comprehension and sentence production in mono- and bilinguals, as well as to the cognitive neuroscience paradigms developed in these domains. After the course, you should (a) have a firm grasp of major (theoretical, empirical and methodological) research developments in the field, (b) be in a better position to understand and critically evaluate extant research, and (c) be able to begin to contribute to the field (in case a Master Thesis is conducted in this area).


The course will cover four broad areas of research:

(1) Sentence and text comprehension. In real life, words never come alone -- they are in the company of other words, of other linguistic signals (e.g., intonation), and of a wide range of other relevant factors (such as the current scene, what has been said before and by whom). As we comprehend language, we need to somehow combine all these sources of information to make sense of what is said. How do people do this? Amongst other things, we'll have a look at the methodology used to keep track of sentence comprehension as it unfolds, we'll review a wide range of recent research on sentence-level syntactic, semantic and referential processing, and we'll examine theoretical and computational perspectives on how the system might incrementally deal with words as they come in.

(2) Sentence production. Sentence production requires the transformation of a preverbal communicative intention into articulation. This transformation is achieved by a series of processing stages. Modern psycholinguistic models of language production assume at least the following levels: conceptualization, i.e. the preparation of a representation of the communicative intention; lexicalization and grammatical encoding, i.e. the selection of the appropriate words from the mental lexicon and the generation of a syntactic structure; phonological encoding, i.e. the generation of a phonological representation of the to-be-produced sentence; and articulation. Central questions in the area of sentence production are: (a) How are the different processing stages coordinated in time? (b) Which properties of the communicative intention affect the choice of appropriate words and of the syntactic structure for the to-be-produced sentence? (c) How much of a sentence is planned before a speaker initiates articulation? Is there something as an advance planning unit of a fixed structurally defined size? Do the planning units at the different processing stages differ in size? The area of sentence and text production has until now proven to be very difficult to investigate by means of rigid experimental methods. This part of the course will therefore also stress the comparison of different empirical approaches to the study of sentence production.

(3) Language in action.Primarily later in the course, we take a step back from the established domains of comprehension and production, and have a look at how the systems involved interact with other systems that make our species the flexible species that we are. After all, language is there for a purpose, which is to help people deal (and live) with others and the world around them. Amongst other things, we'll have a look at how the processing systems involved in comprehension and production systems interlock in conversation, how they relate to attention, action, our goals, values and emotions, how language processing interacts with processing of the sensory environment (e.g., how linguistic processing and the properties of the visual environment jointly determine visual orienting), how they relate to our body (embodied sentence comprehension), and in what ways our language processing machinery might scaffold our thinking.

(4) Second language processing. The findings, models and theories discussed so far in the course predominantly apply to first language (L1) speakers. However, most of us speak other languages as well, though mostly not as proficiently as our mother tongue. The last part of the course will look at sentence processing from a second language (L2) perspective as well as at how L2 speakers learn from correct input in ‘everyday life’.


Additional comments
COURSE: February 8 – June 28, 2018; Thursday 10.45-12.30
LOCATION: t.b.a.

Test information
EXAM: Thursday April 5, 2018; 10:45-13.00
and Thursday July 5, 2018; 10:45-13.00
TYPE OF EXAM: written exam
NOTE: enrollment for a course automatically registers you for its exam. If you don't want to do the first exam you have to deregister for the exam in OSIRIS, but do not forget to sign up for the retake in OSIRIS.Via STUDENT PORTAL until 5 working days before the start of the course.
This course is for CNS students only. Non-CNS students can contact Ellen Janssen ( or Arno Koning (

Contact information
Prof. dr. H. Schriefers

Required materials
Course material
Lecture and seminar notes
Syllabus 1. Introductory and more general reading from handbooks; 2. More focussed reading of journal articles.

Recommended materials
Bock, K., & Levelt, W. (1994). Language Production: Grammatical encoding. In M.A. Gernsbacher (Ed.),Handbook of psycholinguistics, Academic Press, pp. 945 - 984.
Chwilla, D.J., Kolk, H.H.J. & Vissers, Th.W.M. (2007). Immediate integration of novel meanings: N400 support for an embodied view of language comprehension. Brain Research, 1183, 109-123.
Kaan, E., & Swaab, T.Y. (2002) The brain circuitry of syntactic comprehension. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6(8), 350-356.
Kutas, M., & Federmeier, K. D. Electrophysiology reveals semantic memory use in language comprehension.Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2000, 4(12), 463-470.
Lau, E.F., Phillips, C., & Poeppel, D. (2008). A cortical network for semantics: (de)constructing the N400. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Dec;9(12):920-933.
Van Herten, M., Kolk, H.H.J, & Chwilla , D.J. (2005). An ERP study of P600 effects elicited by semantic anomalies.Cognitive Brain Research, 22, 241-255.
Van Turennout, M., Hagoort, P. & Brown, C. (1997). Electrophysiological evidence on the time course of semantic and phonological processes in speech production. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 23, 787-806.
Mahon, B.Z. & Caramazza, A. (2008). A Critical Look at the Embodied Cognition Hypothesis & a New Proposal for Grounding Conceptual Content. Journal of Physiology - Paris, 102, 59-70.
Zwaan, R. A. (2004). The immersed experiencer: toward an embodied theory of language comprehension. In B. H. Ross (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Vol. 44. New York: Academic Press.
Huettig, F., Olivers, C. N. L., & Hartsuiker, R. J. (2011). Looking, language, and memory: Bridging research from the visual world and visual search paradigms. Acta Psychologica, 137, 138-150.
Morgan-Short, K. (2014). Electrophysiological Approaches to Understanding Second Language Acquisition: A Field Reaching its Potential. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 34, 15–36.
Zwaan, R. A. (2004). The immersed experiencer: toward an embodied theory of language comprehension. In B. H. Ross (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Vol. 44. New York: Academic Press.

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes

Attendance MandatoryYes

Lectures, seminars (discussion of set texts and assignments; more focussed presentation of key issues)

Attendance MandatoryYes

written exam
Test weight1
OpportunitiesBlock HER, Block SEM2