ESR4 : Brain indexes of semantic and pragmatic prediction

PhD fellowship


Although the role of prediction in language and communication processing is widely acknowledged, there exist few brain indexes that directly map the neurophysiological correlates of prediction as these emerge in real time. Most studies use event-related activity elicited after the predicted (or not predicted) linguistic forms, e.g., the N400 to semantically expected or unexpected words, and more recently, speech acts. ESR4 will use the readiness potential to directly map the emergence of prediction correlates in the course of communications between two people. Participants will engage in different interactive language games while predictive brain responses will be measured with EEG or fMRI and, eventually, MEG. TMS will be applied to find out whether local stimulation can specifically interfere with communicative predictions. ESR4 will also examine the role of sentence context, where semantic predictions in affirmative and negated sentences will be contrasted. We expect ESR4 to find new brain indexes of semantic and pragmatic predictions, which will be used to directly assess current theories of alignment between communication partners in different types of conversations.

Expected results:

  • Define the readiness potential’s role as an index of semantic and pragmatic predictions;
  • Compare neural correlated of communicative and semantic function and prediction for different types of social interactions and speech acts.

Based in Berlin, Germany

Full-time three-year contract, starting September 2020

PhD enrolment at: Freie Universität Berlin

Main supervisor’s institution: Freie Universität Berlin

Main supervisor: Prof Friedemann Pulvermüller


  • Aix-Marseille University: cooperation on MEG work addressing speech production and comprehension in communication with MEG (5 months);
  • Italian Institute of Technology, Ferrara: cooperation on the design and implementation of the TMS experiment (5,5 months).

Co-supervisors’ institutions:

  • Aix-Marseille University, France
  • Italian Institute of Technology, Ferrara, Italy

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