Previous research provides evidence for expectation-driven processing within sentences at phonological, lexical, and syntactic levels of linguistic structure. Less well-established is whether comprehenders also anticipate pragmatic relationships between sentences. To address this, we evaluate a unit of discourse structure that comprehenders must infer to hold between sentences in order for a discourse to make sense-the intersentential coherence relation. In a novel eyetracking paradigm, we trained participants to associate particular spatial locations with particular coherence relations. Experiment 1 shows that the subset of listeners who successfully acquired the location∼relation mappings during training subsequently looked to these locations during testing in response to a coherence-signaling intersentential connective. Experiment 2 finds that listeners' looks during sentences containing coherence-biasing verbs reveal expectations about upcoming sentence types. This work extends existing research on prediction beyond sentence-internal structure and provides a new methodology for examining the cues that comprehenders use to establish relationships at the discourse level.
- coherence relations
- eye tracking
- discourse comprehension
- implicit causality
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