Processing filler-gap dependencies in a head-final language

Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD 20742-7505, USA
Journal of Memory and Language (Impact Factor: 4.24). 07/2004; 51(1):23-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.jml.2004.03.001

ABSTRACT This paper investigates the processing of long-distance filler-gap dependencies in Japanese, a strongly head-final language. Two self-paced reading experiments and one sentence completion study show that Japanese readers associate a fronted wh-phrase with the most deeply embedded clause of a multi-clause sentence. Experiment 1 demonstrates this using evidence that readers expect to encounter a scope-marking affix on the verb of an embedded clause in wh-fronting constructions. Experiment 2 shows that the wh-phrase is already associated with the embedded clause before the embedded verb is processed, based on a Japanese counterpart of the Filled Gap Effect (Stowe, 1986). Experiment 3 corroborates these findings in a sentence completion study. These findings clarify the factors responsible for ‘active filler’ effects in processing long-distance dependencies (Crain & Fodor, 1985; Fodor, 1978; Frazier & Clifton, 1989; Stowe, 1986) in ways not possible in head-initial languages. The results provide evidence that the processing of filler-gap dependencies is driven by the need to satisfy thematic role requirements of the fronted phrase, rather than by the need to create a gap as soon as possible. The paper also discusses implications of these findings for theories of reanalysis.

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Available from: Colin Phillips, Sep 26, 2015
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    • "lly unintegrated filler in memory has been argued to impose a burden on working memory ( King and Just , 1991 ; Gibson , 1998 ; Gordon et al . , 2002 ; Haarmann and Cameron , 2005 ) . Alternatively , the parser may be architec - turally constrained to assign a thematic interpretation to the filler as soon as possible ( Pickering and Barry , 1991 ; Aoshima et al . , 2004 ) . On this view , the parser should prioritize integrat - ing the filler into the first grammatically permissible structural position that can potentially receive a thematic role . Given that filler - gap dependencies are potentially unbounded , waiting for the verb before constructing the ultimate object gap position could impose a la"
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    ABSTRACT: Much work has demonstrated that speakers of verb-final languages are able to construct rich syntactic representations in advance of verb information. This may reflect general architectural properties of the language processor, or it may only reflect a language-specific adaptation to the demands of verb-finality. The present study addresses this issue by examining whether speakers of a verb-medial language (English) wait to consult verb transitivity information before constructing filler-gap dependencies, where internal arguments are fronted and hence precede the verb. This configuration makes it possible to investigate whether the parser actively makes representational commitments on the gap position before verb transitivity information becomes available. A key prediction of the view that rich pre-verbal structure building is a general architectural property is that speakers of verb-medial languages should predictively construct dependencies in advance of verb transitivity information, and therefore that disruption should be observed when the verb has intransitive subcategorization frames that are incompatible with the predicted structure. In three reading experiments (self-paced and eye-tracking) that manipulated verb transitivity, we found evidence for reading disruption when the verb was intransitive, although no such reading difficulty was observed when the critical verb was embedded inside a syntactic island structure, which blocks filler-gap dependency completion. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that in English, as in verb-final languages, information from preverbal noun phrases is sufficient to trigger active dependency completion without having access to verb transitivity information.
    Frontiers in Psychology 04/2015; 6. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00384 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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    • "For example, active dependency completion has been observed across many languages despite differences in the structural position of the first available gap. As discussed above, in bi-clausal sentences in Japanese such as (4) the embedded clause predicate linearly precedes the main clause predicate; in this context, reading time studies with adult Japanese speakers have shown that the parser actively associates a scrambled wh-phrase with the first verb in the sentence (Aoshima et al., 2004; Nakano, Felser, & Clahsen, 2002). Thus, if children actively complete filler-gap dependencies in (4), it is predicted that children should prefer an interpretation in which the wh-phrase is associated with the first VP in the sentence. "
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    ABSTRACT: Much work on child sentence processing has demonstrated that children are able to use various linguistic cues to incrementally resolve temporary syntactic ambiguities, but they fail to use syntactic or interpretability cues that arrive later in the sentence. The present study explores whether children incrementally resolve filler-gap dependencies, using Japanese and English ambiguous wh-questions of the form Where did Lizzie tell someone that she was gonna catch butterflies?, in which one could answer either the telling location (main clause interpretation) or the butterfly-catching location (embedded clause interpretation). Three story-based experiments demonstrate two novel findings on children’s incremental interpretation of filler-gap dependencies. First, we observe that English-speaking adults and children generally prefer the main clause interpretation, whereas Japanese adults and children both prefer the embedded clause interpretation. As the linear order of main clause and embedded clause predicates differs between English (main first, embedded second) and Japanese (embedded first, main second), the results indicate that adults and children actively associate the wh-phrase with the first predicate in the sentence. Second, Japanese children were unable to inhibit their embedded clause interpretation bias when the sentence was manipulated to syntactically block such analyses. The failure to inhibit the preferred interpretation suggests that the wh-phrase was incrementally associated with the embedded clause. On the other hand, when the sentence was manipulated to semantically block a plausible interpretation for the embedded clause wh-association, children were able to overcome their strong embedded clause interpretation bias and favored the main clause interpretation. These findings suggest that syntactic and interpretability cues may have distinct impacts on children’s sentence comprehension processes.
    Language Learning and Development 11/2014; 10(3):206-233. DOI:10.1080/15475441.2013.844048
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    • "" It should be noted that the linear order of the adjunct-clause predicate and the matrix-clause predicate may increase the chances of getting the adjunct-clause interpretation of naze. For example, according to Aoshima et al. (2004), Japanese-speaking adults preferentially attach the fronted wh-dative NP to the embedded-clause predicate, which suggests that the parser generally attaches a structurally ambiguous wh-phrase to the first position that can integrate that phrase, in order to assign an interpretation. Consequently, it seems reasonable to expect that naze would be preferentially attached to the first complete proposition, namely to the adjunct clause. "
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