Saturday, October 11, 2014

Two new papers

We have two new papers:
  1. Jaeger et al 2014 (under review): The subject-relative advantage in Chinese relatives: Evidence for expectation-based processing, pdf
    abstract: Chinese relative clauses are an important test case for pitting the predictions of expectation-based accounts against those of memory-based theories. The memory-based accounts predict that object relatives should be easier to process than subject relatives because, in object relatives, less linguistic material intervenes between the head noun and the gap (or verb) that it associates with. By contrast, expectation-based accounts such as surprisal predict that the less frequently occurring object relative should be harder to process than the subject relative, because building a rarer structure is computationally more expensive. Previous studies on Chinese relative clauses have the problem that local ambiguities in subject and object relatives could be confounding the comparison. We compared reading difficulty in subject and object relatives (in both subject- and object-modifications) in which the left context leads the reader to predict a relative clause structure as the most likely continuation; we validate this assumption about what is predicted using production data (a sentence completion study and a corpus analysis). Two reading studies (self-paced reading and eye-tracking) show that the Chinese relative clause evidence is consistent with the predictions of expectation-based accounts but not with those of memory-based theories. We present new evidence that the prediction of upcoming structure, generated through the probabilistic syntactic knowledge of the comprehender, is an important determiner of processing cost.
  2. Hofmeister and Vasishth 2014: Distinctiveness and encoding effects in online sentence comprehension, pdf
    abstract: In explicit memory recall and recognition tasks, elaboration and contextual isolation both facilitate memory performance. Here, we investigate these effects in the context of sentence processing: targets for retrieval during online sentence processing of English object relative clause constructions differ in the amount of elaboration associated with the target noun phrase, or the homogeneity of superficial features (text color). Experiment 1 shows that greater elaboration for targets during the encoding phase reduces reading times at retrieval sites, but elaboration of non-targets has considerably weaker effects. Experiment 2 illustrates that processing isolated superficial features of target noun phrases — here, a green word in a sentence with words colored white — does not lead to enhanced memory performance, despite triggering longer encoding times. These results are interpreted in the light of the memory models of Nairne 1990, 2001, 2006, which state that encoding remnants contribute to the set of retrieval cues that provide the basis for similarity-based interference effects.

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