Predicting object states in Mandarin Chinese – insights from the bǎ-construction
The Mandarin Chinese bǎ-construction offers a unique case to study the online comprehension of structural meaning (temporal and causal relations) independent of content meaning (lexically specified object qualities). Can referent states be activated before they are qualitatively specified? Results from two visual world studies suggest that processing the function word bǎ activates such an abstract representation in the comprehender’s situation model. This representation interacts with the visual input, and leads to predictions of linguistic input. We interpret predictions on the basis of such type of structural information as a special kind of incremental processing which has not been reported previously.