How Do People Construct Logical Form During Language Comprehension?

Claudine Raffray, M. J. Pickering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

How do people interpret ambiguous sentences containing more than one quantifier, such as Every kid climbed a tree? We report four sentence-picture matching experiments that used priming to investigate whether comprehenders construct logical-form representations during processing. Experiment 1 investigated priming in active-voice sentences containing transitive verbs and found priming effects of quantifier-scope relations. Experiment 2 demonstrated priming effects when prime sentences were in the passive voice (e.g., A tree was climbed by every kid) and target sentences were in the active voice. Experiment 3 used prime sentences containing existentially quantified agents and universally quantified patients (e.g., A kid climbed every tree) and found no priming effects. Experiment 4 showed no priming effects when prime sentences contained plural nouns but no quantifiers (e.g., Kids like to climb trees), thus calling into question a visual-priming account of our priming effects. Our findings suggest that people construct logical-form representations, and they do so after constructing meaning-based representations involving quantifiers and thematic-role information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1090-1097
JournalPsychological Science
Volume21
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010

Keywords

  • quantifier scope
  • priming
  • logical form
  • thematic roles
  • comprehension

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