Adjunct attachment is not a form of lexical ambiguity resolution

M J Traxler, M J Pickering, C Clifton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Three eye-tracking experiments investigated ambiguity resolution in sentences containing adjunct modifiers. The experiments tested readers' response to sentences that began with a noun phrase complex containing two nouns and a preposition (of or with). A prepositional phrase or relative clause modified one of the noun phrases. The sentences were either temporarily or fully ambiguous as to which noun phrase was modified. The first and third experiments used semantic plausibility to disambiguate attachment (when disambiguation was possible). The second experiment used gender agreement to disambiguate attachment. The type of modifier, prepositional phrase versus relative clause, affected processing of the modifier as did the type of preposition in the noun phrase complex, theta-assigning versus non-theta-assigning The data challenge the idea that syntactic ambiguity resolution is a form of lexical ambiguity resolution achieved via competition (MacDonald, 1994; MacDonald, Pearlmutter, & Seidenberg, 1994; Spivey-Knowlton & Sedivy, 1995). (C) 1998 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)558-592
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Volume39
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1998

Keywords

  • LATE-CLOSURE STRATEGY
  • EYE-MOVEMENTS
  • SYNTACTIC AMBIGUITY
  • ARGUMENT STRUCTURE
  • SENTENCE COMPREHENSION
  • FIXATION TIMES
  • VERB
  • CONSTRAINTS
  • INFORMATION
  • FREQUENCY

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