Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 65–81 | Cite as

Comprehending Noun Phrase Arguments and Adjuncts

  • Shelia M. Kennison


Two experiments investigated how readers comprehend noun phrase (NP) arguments and adjuncts. Previous research suggested that argument phrases are processed more quickly than adjunct phrases (Clifton, Speer, & Abney, 1991; Kennison, 1999; Schütze & Gibson, 1999; Speer & Clifton, 1998). The present experiments investigated whether the type of verb in the sentence context could influence how NP arguments and adjuncts were processed. Reading time was measured on sentences containing NP arguments and adjuncts preceded either by verbs occurring most frequently with NP arguments (biased transitive verbs) or by verbs occurring most frequently without NP arguments (biased intransitive verbs) (e.g., “Meredith read/performed every play/week.”). In Experiment 1, reading time was measured using a self-paced phrase-by-phrase moving window. In Experiment 2, reading time was measured using eye tracking. The results of both experiments indicated that, following biased transitive verbs, NP arguments were processed more quickly than NP adjuncts. When NPs followed biased intransitive verbs, there was no significant difference between the processing time of NP arguments and adjuncts.

NP arguments adjuncts sentence processing 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shelia M. Kennison
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MassachusettsAmherst

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