Processing Control Information in a Nominal Control Construction: An Eye-Tracking Study
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In an eye-tracking experiment, we examined the processing of the nominal control construction. Participants’ eye-movements were monitored while they read sentences that included either giver control nominals (e.g. promise in Luke’s promise to Sophia to photograph himself) or recipient control nominals (e.g. plea in Luke’s plea to Sophia to photograph herself). In order to examine both the initial access of control information, and its later use in on-line processing, we combined a manipulation of nominal control with a gender match/mismatch paradigm. Results showed that there was evidence of processing difficulty for giver control sentences (relative to recipient control sentences) at the point where the control dependency was initially created, suggesting that control information was accessed during the early parsing stages. This effect is attributed to a recency preference in the formation of control dependencies; the parser prefers to assign a recent antecedent to PRO. In addition, readers slowed down after reading a reflexive pronoun that mismatched with the gender of the antecedent indicated by the control nominal (e.g. Luke’s promise to Sophia to photograph herself). The mismatch cost suggests that control information of the nominal control construction was used to constrain dependency formation involving a controller, PRO and a reflexive, confirming the use of control information in on-line interpretation.
KeywordsNominal control construction PRO Reflexive Recency effect Eye-tracking
The authors would like to thank Dr. Hui Fang for assistance in stimuli generation and Meredith Englund, Caitlin Richter and Lewis White for assistance in data collection. This research was supported by the faculty research fund of Konkuk University in 2014.
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