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Title:Comprehending Mandarin Relative Clauses: Ambiguity, Locality and Expectation
Author(s):Lin, Yowyu
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Susan M. Garnseys
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Language, Linguistics
Abstract:The second goal of these experiments was to find out what kinds of cues help Mandarin speakers disambiguate sentences that are temporarily ambiguous. Previous studies have found that Mandarin speakers make rapid use of animacy cues (Lin & Garnsey, 2010), and the studies reported here show that they also use verb-based structural biases (Experiment 1) and classifier-based semantic restrictions (Experiments 3 and 4) to help resolve temporary ambiguity. Relative clauses were also embedded in constructions that alter the default SVO order such as the BA (object focusing) and BEI (passive) constructions to investigate how word order changes would influence relative clause processing (Experiments 4 and 5). The final experiment (Experiment 5) investigated the role of locality in Mandarin sentence processing. Long-distance dependencies between words in a sentence usually become more difficult when the distance increases. This is called a locality effect and is generally explained in terms of increasing memory load with distance. However, a few previous studies of Hindi, German, and English have found the opposite, i.e. that the difficulty decreases with increasing distance. This has been called an anti-locality effect and has been explained in terms of increasing anticipation of the upcoming element. The head-final property of Mandarin relative clauses provides another opportunity to examine locality. In the previous studies finding anti-locality effects, the anticipated upcoming word was a verb, while in most studies showing locality effects, it was instead a noun. In order to test whether it is the class of the predicted word (and the differences in the types of dependencies that go along with that) that explains why there are sometimes locality and sometimes anti-locality effects. Head-final relative clauses were used to make a noun be the anticipated word and the verb-final BA construction was used to make a verb be the anticipated word. A locality effect (reading times increased as distance increased) was observed when the anticipated word was a noun but an anti-locality effect (reading times decreased as distance increased) was observed when it was a verb, suggesting that it is the type of dependency and the nature of the anticipated information that determine the direction of locality effects in sentence comprehension. (Abstract shortened by UMI.).
Issue Date:2010
Description:117 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2010.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3411449
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2010

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