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Semantic indeterminacy in object relative clauses

Gennari, Silvia P. and MacDonald, Maryellen C. (2008) Semantic indeterminacy in object relative clauses. Journal of Memory and Language. pp. 161-187. ISSN 0749-596X

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Abstract

This article examined whether semantic indeterminacy plays a role in comprehension of complex structures such as object relative clauses. Study 1 used a gated sentence completion task to assess which alternative interpretations are dominant as the relative clause unfolds; Study 2 compared reading times in object relative clauses containing different animacy configurations to unambiguous passive controls; and Study 3 related completion data and reading data. The results showed that comprehension difficulty was modulated by animacy configuration and voice (active vs. passive). These differences were well correlated with the availability of alternative interpretations as the relative clause unfolds, as revealed by the completion data. In contrast to approaches arguing that comprehension difficulty stems from syntactic complexity, these results suggest that semantic indeterminacy is a major source of comprehension difficulty in object relative clauses. Results are consistent with constraint-based approaches to ambiguity resolution and bring new insights into previously identified sources of difficulty. (C) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2008 Elsevier B.V. This is an author produced version of a paper published in Journal of Memory and Language. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: reading comprehension, object relative clauses, thematic roles, constraint satisfaction, SYNTACTIC AMBIGUITY RESOLUTION, GARDEN-PATH SENTENCES, WORKING-MEMORY, INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES, PROBABILISTIC CONSTRAINTS, CAPACITY THEORY, CARPENTER 1992, EYE-MOVEMENTS, COMPREHENSION, COMPLEXITY, Language and Linguistics, Experimental and Cognitive Psychology, Linguistics and Language
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > Psychology (York)
Depositing User: Sherpa Assistant
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2008 11:09
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2014 00:01
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2007.07.004
Status: Published
Refereed: Yes
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3724

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