The Division of Labor Between Structure Building and Feature Checking During Sentence Comprehension

  • Markus BaderEmail author
Part of the Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics book series (SITP, volume 48)


The two-stage architecture of the Garden-Path Theory with its separation of first- and second-pass parsing has been replaced by simpler architectures in certain probability-based models of the human parser, including the Surprisal Theory. Based on evidence from subject-object ambiguities in German, this paper argues that the two-stage architecture still provides a better account of the garden-path strength observed for object-before-subject sentences in German. In the first part of the paper, corpus findings concerning the relationship between animacy and word order are discussed. Although animacy information is an important predictor of word-order in German, the Surprisal Theory does not predict differences in garden-path strength related to this information because animacy constrains word order only in combination with the verb’s argument structure. Because garden-path strength in verb-final clauses, as they are found in German, is a function of the verb’s expectedness according to the Surprisal Theory, verb specific information itself cannot affect garden-path strength in this theory. In the second part of the paper, a specific implementation of a two-stage model of garden-path recovery, the Linking-and-Checking model, is discussed. This model accounts for the dependence of garden-path strength in object-before-subject sentences on animacy as well as for findings concerning the use of subject-verb agreement for garden-path recovery.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for LinguisticsGoethe University FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany

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