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


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.

16 Reads
  • Source
    • "In spite of differences of opinion about how parallelism functions, Kehler et al. (2008) and Smyth (1994) make the same prediction regarding the interaction between parallelism and accent. Smyth specifies this as a rule of the grammar of English, whereas Kehler et al. suggest that the selection of a nonparallel entity occurs because accent indicates nonparallel coreferentiality as a feature of information structure (which is quite compatible with Levinson, 2000, and Huang's, 2000, description of referent markedness). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Previous research on pronoun resolution has identified several individual factors that are deemed to be important for resolving reference. In this paper, we argue that of these factors, as tested here, plausibility is the most important, but interacts with form markedness and structural parallelism. We investigated how listeners resolved object pronouns that were ambiguous in the sense of having more than one possible antecedent. We manipulated the form of the anaphoric expression in terms of accentuation (English: Experiments 1a and 2a) and morphology (Spanish: Experiments 1b and 2b). We looked at sentences where both antecedents were equally plausible, or where only one of the antecedents was plausible. Listeners generally resolved toward the (parallel) grammatical object of the previous clause. When the pronouns were marked due to accentuation (English) or use of specific morphology (Spanish), preference switched to the alternative antecedent, the grammatical subject of the previous clause. In contrast, when one of the two antecedents was a much more plausible antecedent than the other, antecedent choice was almost wholly dictated by plausibility, although reference form prominence did significantly attenuate the strength of the preference.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2013 · Quarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006)
  • Source
    • "This possibility is coherent with other sources of evidence. For instance, the proposed role for structure expectations in real-time anaphor resolution is consistent with the well-known preference for parallel antecedents in ellipsis and with pronouns (Arregui et al., 2006; Dickey & Bunger, 2011; Kehler, 2000; Mauner et al., 1995; Smyth, 1994; Tanenhaus & Carlson, 1990). Furthermore, antecedent recovery in ellipsis (VPE, Sluicing, Gapping) is immediate in " and " -conjoined constructions (Kaan, Wijnen, & Swaab, 2004; Shapiro & Hestvik, 1995, Exp.1; Shapiro et al., 2003; present study). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    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.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2012 · Language and Cognitive Processes
  • Source
    • "In addition, we did not observe an interaction between implicit causality information and pronoun type but we did find an interaction between grammatical role and pronoun type, showing an effect of grammatical role parallelism (Chambers & Smyth, 1998; Smyth, 1994). This indicates that implicit causality information has the same effect on pronoun resolution regardless of the type of pronoun involved. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A visual world eye-tracking study investigated the activation and persistence of implicit causality information in spoken language comprehension. We showed that people infer the implicit causality of verbs as soon as they encounter such verbs in discourse, as is predicted by proponents of the immediate focusing account (Greene & McKoon, 1995; Koornneef & Van Berkum, 2006; Van Berkum, Koornneef, Otten, & Nieuwland, 2007). Interestingly, we observed activation of implicit causality information even before people encountered the causal conjunction. However, while implicit causality information was persistent as the discourse unfolded, it did not have a privileged role as a focusing cue immediately at the ambiguous pronoun when people were resolving its antecedent. Instead, our study indicated that implicit causality does not affect all referents to the same extent, rather it interacts with other cues in the discourse, especially when one of the referents is already prominently in focus.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2010 · Experimental Psychology
Show more