Anticipating explanations in relative clause processing

H. Rohde, R. Levy, A. Kehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We show that comprehenders' expectations about upcoming discourse coherence relations influence the resolution of local structural ambiguity. We employ cases in which two clauses share both a syntactic relationship and a discourse relationship, and hence in which syntactic and discourse processing might be expected to interact. An off-line sentence-completion study and an on-line self-paced reading study examined readers' expectations for high/low relative-clause attachments following implicit-causality and non-implicit causality verbs (John detests/babysits the children of the musician who ... ). In the off-line study, the widely reported low-attachment preference for English is observed in the non-implicit causality condition, but this preference gives way to more high attachments in the implicit-causality condition in cases in which (i) the verb's causally implicated referent occupies the high-attachment position and (ii) the relative clause provides an explanation for the event described by the matrix clause (e.g., ... who are arrogant and rude). In the on-line study, a similar preference for high attachment emerges in the implicit-causality context crucially, before the occurrence of any linguistic evidence that the RC does in fact provide an explanation whereas the low-attachment preference is consistent elsewhere. These findings constitute the first demonstration that expectations about ensuing discourse coherence relationships call elicit full reversals in syntactic attachment preferences, and that these discourse-level expectations can affect on-line disambiguation as rapidly as lexical and morphosyntactic cues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-358
Number of pages20
JournalCognition
Volume118
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Discourse processing
  • Relative clause attachment ambiguity
  • Implicit causality
  • Coherence relations
  • SYNTACTIC AMBIGUITY RESOLUTION
  • IMPLICIT CAUSALITY INFORMATION
  • THEMATIC ROLE INFORMATION
  • TIME-COURSE
  • SENTENCE COMPREHENSION
  • REFERENTIAL CONTEXT
  • CORPUS FREQUENCIES
  • READING TIMES
  • DISCOURSE
  • ATTACHMENT

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Anticipating explanations in relative clause processing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this