Agent-patient thematic role competition in online sentence production

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Previous studies have shown that identifying one of two animate entities taking part in a transitive event typically results in a passive relative clause (RC) (e.g., the boy that is being kissed by the girl) rather than an active RC (e.g., the boy that the girl is kissing) [1][2][3]. For example, when asked which boy is highlighted in Figure 1, speakers respond with passive RCs. It has been suggested that passive RCs are preferred because speakers experience semantic competition between two highly similar and equally likely agents. This competition leads to the selection of the head noun (boy) and the demotion of the agent noun (girl) for laterin the structure, resulting in the utterance of a passive RC. However, relatively little is known about the actual time course of this competition in sentence production. Here we present an eye-tracking production study investigating competition in real time.
Period7 Sept 2022
Event titleAMLaP (Architectures and Mechanisms of Language Processing) 2022
Event typeConference


  • eye-tracking and spoken language
  • production
  • syntactic processing