The Influence of only on Syntactic processing of "Long" Relative Clause Sentences

Simon P. Liversedge, Kevin B. Paterson, Emma L. Clayes
2002 The Quarterly journal of experimental psychology. Section A, Human experimental psychology  
We report an eye movement experiment investigating the influence of the focus operator only on syntactic processing of "long" relative clause sentences. Paterson, Liversedge, and Underwood (1999) found that readers were garden pathed by "short" reduced relative clause sentences containing the focus operator only. They argued that due to thematic differences between "short" and "long" relative clause sentences, garden path effect might not occur when "long" reduced relative clause sentences are
more » ... ead. Eye-tracking data show that garden path effects found during initial processing of the disambiguating verb of "long" reduced sentences without only were absent or delayed in the case of counterparts with only. We discuss our results in terms of current theories of sentence processing. A central issue in syntactic processing research is whether initial parsing decisions are made using syntactic knowledge alone or are influenced by higher order factors such as referential properties of the reader's discourse model. "Restricted" theories (Traxler & Pickering, 1996) require that syntactic knowledge alone dictates initial processing of ambiguous sentences like (1) and (2): 1. The spy shot the cop with the ginger hair. 2. The florist sent the flowers smiled. Requests for reprints should be sent to Simon P. Liversedge, PARSING "LONG" RELATIVE CLAUSE SENTENCES 227 1 Note that the terms "long" and "short" do not refer to the length of a sentence in terms of number of words or characters, but instead are used simply as convenient labels to distinguish between sentences with a noun phrase (NP), verb (V), NP structure and sentences with a NP, V, propositional phrase (PP) structure. On average our NP, V, PP sentences did contain more words than our NP, V, NP sentences (thoughthis need not necessarily have been the case). Furthermore, our labelling is consistent with the terminology employed in other publications (e.g., Murray & Liversedge, 1994; Paterson, Liversedge, & Underwood, 1999). We also note that MacDonald (1994), used the terms "DO-phrase" to refer to the second NP in a NP, V, NP structure and "not-DO phrase" to refer to the PP as part of a NP, V, NP structure, respectively.
doi:10.1080/02724980143000253 pmid:11873848 fatcat:dmeve2pmjzbmzd4dr5wpt3t6bu