The printed words you are reading now are the perceptible cornerstones of an otherwise invisible grammatical edifice that is automatically reconstructed in your mind. According to many psycholinguists, comprehending spoken, written or signed sentences involves building grammatical structures. This cognitive activity, usually called syntactic analysis or sentence parsing, includes assigning a word class (part-of-speech) to individual words, combining them into word groups or ‘phrases’, and establishing syntactic relationships between word groups. All these parsing decisions should harmonize not only with rules of grammar but also with the message intended by speaker, writer or signer. Although usually proceeding effortlessly and automatically, the parsing process may slow down, err, or even break down completely when the sentence is very long or contains difficult grammatical constructions. Characterizing the exact nature of such problems and explaining them in terms of underlying cognitive mechanisms are important objectives of the subfield of psycholinguistics called Human Sentence Processing (HSP).


Work Memory Capacity Relative Clause Sentence Comprehension Main Clause Input Word 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

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  • Gerard Kempen

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