Grammatical determinants of ambiguous pronoun resolution

University of Toronto Department of Linguistics M5S 1A1 Toronto Ontario Canada
Journal of Psycholinguistic Research (Impact Factor: 0.59). 08/1994; 23(3):197-229. DOI: 10.1007/BF02139085

ABSTRACT Crawley et al. (1990) argue for the primacy of a subject assignment strategy for pronoun assignment during reading, and against the notion of parallel function (Sheldon, 1974). However, most of their items deviated from parallel structure, and none included subject pronouns. In four experiments with subject and nonsubject pronouns, strong parallel function effects emerge when a potential antecedent has the same syntactic role as the pronoun and when the two clauses have the same attachment site and constituent structure. Attachment nonparallelism causes the greatest ambiguity, while the other types lead to more subject assignment overall, although there is always an overlaid parallel function effect. These observations support a model of pronoun assignment according to which potential antecedents are checked for morphological, syntactic and semantic feature matches with the pronoun, and priming/reactivation of syntactic structure across clauses facilitates parallel assignment.

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