The time-course of the application of binding constraints in reference resolution

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Abstract

We report two experiments which examined the role of binding theory in on-line sentence processing. Participants' eye movements were recorded while they read short texts which included anaphoric references with reflexive anaphors (himself or herself). In each of the experiments, two characters were introduced into the discourse before the anaphor, and only one of these characters was a grammatical antecedent for the anaphor in terms of binding theory. Both experiments showed that Principle A of the binding theory operates at the very earliest stages of processing; early eye-movement measures showed evidence of processing difficulty when the gender of the reflexive anaphor mismatched the stereotypical gender of the grammatical antecedent. However, the gender of the ungrammatical antecedent had no effect on early processing, although it affected processing during later stages in Experiment 1. An additional experiment showed that the gender of the ungrammatical antecedent also affected the likelihood of participants settling on an ungrammatical final interpretation. The results are interpreted in relation to the notions of bonding and resolution in reference processing. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-562
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Volume48
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2003

Keywords

  • anaphor resolution
  • sentence processing
  • eyetracking
  • SYNTACTIC AMBIGUITY RESOLUTION
  • LEXICAL AMBIGUITY
  • FIXATION TIMES
  • DISCOURSE
  • SENTENCE
  • ATTACHMENT
  • FREQUENCY
  • KNOWLEDGE
  • PRONOUNS
  • ENGLISH

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