, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 318-331

Evidence for an anaphoric mechanism within syntactic processing: Some reference relations defy semantic and pragmatic constraints

Abstract

In three experiments, we examined an interaction between the pronounthey and syntactic analysis. Experiment 1 demonstrates thatthey can slow reading times tois when this verb is visually presented immediately after a sentence fragment ending with an ambiguous expression such asflying kites. This effect seems to involve a coreference assignment linkingthey and the ambiguous expression that influences the syntactic analysis of the latter. Experiments 2 and 3 show that this effect can operate even when coreference betweenthey and the ambiguous expression is implausible. These results support a modular theory of comprehension that includes structurally oriented reference processes with access to some, but not all, of the listener’s knowledge relevant to coreference.

This article is based in part on the first author’s dissertation, which was done at the City University of New York under the direction of the second author, This project benefited greatly from discussions with Bob Fiengo, Michael Studdert-Kennedy, Terry Langendoen, Lou Gerstman, Merrill Garrett, and Tom Bever. Roberta Klatzky and two anonymous reviewers provided very valuable comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.