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Prominence facilitates ambiguity resolution: On the interaction between referentiality, thematic roles and word order in syntactic reanalysis

  • In two eye-tracking experiments, we investigated the relationship between the subject preference in the resolution of subject-object ambiguities in German embedded clauses and semantic word order constraints (i.e., prominence hierarchies relating to the specificity/referentiality of noun phrases, case assignment and thematic role assignment). Our central research question concerned the timecourse with which prominence information is used and particularly whether it modulates the subject preference. In both experiments, we replicated previous findings of reanalysis effects for object-initial structures. Our findings further suggest that noun phrase prominence does not alter initial parsing strategies (viz., the subject preference), but rather modulates the ease of later reanalysis processes. In Experiment 1, the object case assigned by the verb did not affect the ease of reanalysis. However, the syntactic reanalysis was rendered more difficult when the order of the two arguments violated the specificity/referentiality hierarchy. Experiment 2 revealed that the initial subject preference also holds for verbs favoring an object-initial base order (i.e., dative object-experiencer verbs). However, the advantage for subject-initial sentences is neutralized in relatively late processing stages when the thematic role hierarchy and the specificity hierarchy converge to promote scrambling.

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Author:Franziska KretzschmarGND, Ina Bornkessel-SchlesewskyORCiDGND, Adrian Staub, Dietmar RoehmGND, Matthias SchlesewskyGND
Parent Title (English):Case, word order and prominence: Interacting cues in language production and comprehension
Series (Serial Number):Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics (40)
Place of publication:Dordrecht
Document Type:Part of a Book
Year of first Publication:2012
Date of Publication (online):2021/01/14
Tag:fixation duration; noun phrase; rapid serial visual presentation; reading time; word order
GND Keyword:Augenfolgebewegung; Experiment; Nominalphrase; Thematische Relation; Wortstellung
First Page:239
Last Page:271
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 400 Sprache, Linguistik
Open Access?:nein
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich gesch√ľtzt