The Interplay of Implicit Causality, Structural Heuristics, and Anaphor Type in Ambiguous Pronoun Resolution

Abstract

Two visual-world eye-tracking experiments investigating pronoun resolution in Finnish examined the time course of implicit causality information relative to both grammatical role and order-of-mention information. Experiment 1 showed an effect of implicit causality that appeared at the same time as the first-mention preference. Furthermore, when we counterbalanced the semantic roles of the verbs, we found no effect of grammatical role, suggesting the standard observed subject preference has a large semantic component. Experiment 2 showed that both the personal pronoun hän and the demonstrative tämä preferred the antecedent consistent with the implicit causality bias; tämä was not interpreted as referring to the semantically non-prominent entity. In contrast, structural prominence affected hän and tämä differently: we found a first-mention preference for hän, but a second-mention preference for tämä. The results suggest that semantic implicit causality information has an immediate effect on pronoun resolution and its use is not delayed relative to order-of-mention information. Furthermore, they show that order-of-mention differentially affects different types of anaphoric expressions, but semantic information has the same effect.

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported by a grant from The Academy of Finland (Grant No. 106418) awarded to the first author and a grant from the Leverhulme Trust (F/00143E) to the second author.

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Correspondence to Juhani Järvikivi.

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Järvikivi, J., van Gompel, R.P.G. & Hyönä, J. The Interplay of Implicit Causality, Structural Heuristics, and Anaphor Type in Ambiguous Pronoun Resolution. J Psycholinguist Res 46, 525–550 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10936-016-9451-1

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Keywords

  • Implicit causality
  • Visual-world eye-tracking
  • Pronoun resolution
  • Comprehension
  • Finnish