Article

Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 1-19

On the surface structure of infinitive-complement sentences

  • Susan KemperAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Cornell University
  • , Jack CatlinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Cornell University
  • , John S. BowersAffiliated withDepartment of Modern Languages and Linguistics, Cornell University

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Abstract

Linguists' inability to reach consensus about the surface structure of infinitive-complement sentences with verbs likebelieve is a consequence of unresolved foundational disputes about the nature of generative grammar. Naive native speakers' linguistic intuitions about sentences of this type, as assessed by elicitation of judgments about surface structure, also fail to provide a solution to this problem. Insofar as we have no way of deciding on the surface structure ofbelieve-type infinitive-complement sentences, click-displacement results with these materials cannot be used to support either a surface-structure account or a deep-structure account of the parsing of sentences in the process of comprehension.