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The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

ESSL/LacqLab 4/25 - Cassandra Chapman

Speaker: Cassandra Chapman
Time: Monday, April 25, at 1:00 PM
Place: 32-D831
Title: Processing of logical form structure: Evidence from binding

Previous psycholinguistic work on filler-gap dependencies demonstrates that the left-to-right incremental parser is sensitive to the syntactic dependency holding between a wh-filler and its gap position. However, little work has investigated how the parser might resolve constructions in which a phrase must be interpreted in a distinct structural position (i.e., in its logical form, or LF, position) from where it appears on the surface. The interpretation of three different types of DPs (namely, anaphors, pronouns and proper names) provide a tool to investigate LF structure in real-time. In three self-paced reading experiments, we examined how these DPs are processed in sentences where the anaphor or pronoun linearly preceded its antecedent. Results suggest that the parser searches for an antecedent as soon as it finds an unbound anaphor (Principle A) but that no such search occurs for pronouns (Principle B). Greater processing difficulty is also incurred when names are first introduced compared to pronouns, which can be explained by current models of variable binding: pronouns can enter the derivation with an index whereas an index needs to be created for names to serve as binders. In this talk, we propose a processing model which makes predictions about when processing difficulty will arise based on the current semantic theories.
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