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Structuring Expectation: Licensing Animacy in Relative Clause Comprehension
Matthew W. Wagers and Emily Pendleton
29-46 (complete paper or proceedings contents)

Abstract

It is more difficult to comprehend relative clauses formed on non-subject arguments than on subject arguments. However, this difficulty can be diminished if the non-subject argument is inanimate. In this paper we explore the hypothesis that relativized animates generate a specific, incremental expectation for a subject gap (Gennari & MacDonald, 2008). In two self-paced reading experiments using the filled-gap paradigm, we find support for the hypothesis that animate, but not inanimate, arguments are predictively linked to the subject gap. We explore the source of this expectation in a series of corpus and written production experiments. We argue it cannot be that the subject gap expectation follows from probabilistic knowledge conditioned on words or phrases per se, but that it must be conditioned on animacy as a grammatical feature.

Published in

Proceedings of the 33rd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Kyeong-min Kim, Pocholo Umbal, Trevor Block, Queenie Chan, Tanie Cheng, Kelli Finney, Mara Katz, Sophie Nickel-Thompson, and Lisa Shorten
Table of contents
Printed edition: $375.00