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: We report three experiments on reference resolution in Dutch. The results of two off-line experiments and an eye-tracking study suggest that the interpretation of different referential forms—in particular, “emphatic” strong pronouns, weak pronouns, and demonstrative pronouns—cannot be satisfactorily explained in terms of a single feature of the antecedent. The findings show that while the different preferences of demonstratives pronouns and nonemphatic personal pronouns correlate with the antecedent's grammatical role, the distinction between strong/emphatic personal pronouns and weak personal pronouns cannot be satisfactorily explained by grammatical role. The results suggest that the strong form is sensitive to the presence of contrastive, switched topics. These findings indicate that the form-specific multiple-constraints approach (e.g., Kaiser & Trueswell, 2008) can be extended to the strong/weak distinction and contrast sensitivity. We also discuss the implications of these results for the nature of the form-function mapping in anaphoric paradigms from a Gricean perspective.Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 12/2011; 26(10):1587-1624. · 1.93 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: We report two visual-world eye-tracking experiments that investigated the effects of subjecthood, pronominalisation, and contrastive focus on the interpretation of pronouns in subsequent discourse. By probing the effects of these factors on real-time pronoun interpretation, we aim to contribute to our understanding of how topicality-related factors (subjecthood, givenness) interact with contrastive focus effects, and to investigate whether the seemingly mixed results obtained in prior work on topicality and focusing could be related to effects of subjecthood. Our results indicate that structural and semantic prominence (specifically, agentive subjects) influence pronoun interpretation even when separated from information-structural notions, and thus need to be taken into account when investigating topicality and focusing. We discuss how our results allow us to reconcile the distinct findings of prior studies. More generally, this research contributes to our understanding of how the language comprehension system integrates different kinds of information during real-time reference resolution.Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 12/2011; 26(10):1625-1666. · 1.93 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Parallelism effects refer to the facilitated processing of a target structure when it follows a similar, parallel structure. In coordination, a parallelism-related conjunction triggers the expectation that a second conjunct with the same structure as the first conjunct should occur. It has been proposed that parallelism effects reflect the use of the first structure as a template that guides the processing of the second. In this study, we examined the role of parallelism in real-time anaphora resolution by charting activation patterns in coordinated constructions containing anaphora, Verb-Phrase Ellipsis (VPE) and Noun-Phrase Traces (NP-traces). Specifically, we hypothesised that an expectation of parallelism would incite the parser to assume a structure similar to the first conjunct in the second, anaphora-containing conjunct. The speculation of a similar structure would result in early postulation of covert anaphora. Experiment 1 confirms that following a parallelism-related conjunction, first-conjunct material is activated in the second conjunct. Experiment 2 reveals that an NP-trace in the second conjunct is posited immediately where licensed, which is earlier than previously reported in the literature. In light of our findings, we propose an intricate relation between structural expectations and anaphor resolution.Language and Cognitive Processes 06/2012; 27(6):868-886. · 1.54 Impact Factor