Grammatical determinants of ambiguous pronoun resolution
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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ABSTRACT: Although the pronoun resolution mechanism has not been clearly defined, research in language acquisition, computation, and production has proposed various explanations for it in various languages. Among these models, the Parallel Function Hypothesis (PF) suggested that in a complex sentence, if the co-referential noun phrases are in the same grammatical functional category, the Parallel Function Pronoun Resolution (PFR), the statement is easier to process than the Non-parallel Function Pronoun (non-PFR) Resolution. In the current paper, we studied the processing times of these pronouns through eye-tracking methodology, and compared the first fixation, total fixation and difficulty level of PFR and non-PFR pronouns, as explained in the PF for pronoun referencing mechanism. In the Eye-mind Assumption (EMA), Just and Carpenter suggested that a person’s attention could be followed through the visual display in eye movement recordings, in which the duration of fixation on a word was interpreted as the processing of information. In other words, the difficulty in processing could be manifested on eye tracking data, especially on fixations. It was also clearly put forward that the eye tracking data revealed information on information processing regarding syntactic processing difficulty. The results of the current study suggested that pronouns which were resolved to a noun phrase which had a similar grammatical function were fixated less than pronouns which were resolved to a noun which had a different grammatical function. Unlike first fixation durations, total fixation durations of PFR pronouns were significantly shorter than those of non-PFR pronouns. Therefore, in terms of syntactic processing load, it could be stated that our findings clearly illustrated that non-parallel pronoun resolution involves more processing load than parallel resolution.Journal of Quantitative Linguistics 04/2015; 22(2). DOI:10.1080/09296174.2014.1001635 · 0.33 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: A standard assumption in psycholinguistic research on pronoun interpretation is that production and interpretation are guided by the same set of contextual factors. A line of recent research has suggested otherwise, however, arguing instead that pronoun production is insensitive to a class of semantically driven contextual biases that have been shown to influence pronoun interpretation. The work reported in this paper addresses three fundamental questions that have been left unresolved by this research. First, research demonstrating the insensitivity of production to semantic biases has relied on referentially unambiguous settings in which the comprehender's ability to resolve the pronoun is not actually at stake. Experiment 1, a story continuation study, demonstrates that pronoun production is also insensitive to semantic biases in settings in which a pronoun would be referentially ambiguous. Second, previous research has not distinguished between accounts in which production biases are driven by grammatical properties of intended referents (e. g., subject position) or by information-structural factors (specifically, topichood) that are inherently pragmatic in nature. Experiment 2 examines this question with a story continuation study that manipulates the likelihood of potential referents being the topic while keeping grammatical role constant. A significant effect of the manipulation on rate of pronominalisation supports the claim that pronoun production is influenced by the likelihood that the referent is the current topic. Lastly, the predictions of Kehler et al.'s Bayesian analysis of the relationship between production and interpretation have never been quantitatively examined. The results of both experiments are shown to support the analysis over two competing models.06/2013; 29(8):912-927. DOI:10.1080/01690965.2013.854918
Article: Solving for Interpretation[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: We might profitably compare interpretation in discourse to the solution of a simultaneous equation in multiple variables. In a given utterance, there may be one or more anaphoric expressions or ellipses whose interpretation must be resolved, and one or more quantificational operators whose intended domain must be determined. I sketch how a general Gricean principle of Retrievability guides the resolution of all these types of variables and other kinds of context-sensitivity as well, taking into account requirements of relevance and salience which reflect the intentional structure of discourse generally assumed by interlocutors. In particular, relevance to an understood Question under Discussion constrains the search space for anaphora resolution and domain restriction in a thorough-going way, offering the foundation for a theory of salience. Moreover, the interaction between conventional content and context can only be captured in a dynamic model in which the formally modeled context changes in the course of compositional interpretation. This characterization of the role of context in interpretation stands in contrast to a commonly assumed model which treats interpretation (processing and comprehension) as a sequential affair, in which first we parse, then resolve a few indexicals in the course of compositionally determining the semantic content of the utterance, and finally put Gricean icing on the propositional cake. But the proposed model is also more constrained than some other models of pragmatically-guided processing, including those of Sperber & Wilson (1985) and those based principally on rhetorical relations. I review experimental evidence from the psycholinguistic literature on both processing and acquisition which suggests that the intention-structured model of discourse is psychologically plausible and explanatory, and that it reveals important features of the interface between purely linguistic competence and more general cognitive processes, including practical reasoning, and information storage and retrieval.