The Impact of Case and Prosody on the Availability of Argument Structures

  • Sandra Pappert
  • Thomas Pechmann
Part of the Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics book series (SITP, volume 40)


German sentences with the subcategorizing verb in the final position are locally underspecified with respect to argument structure. The aim of the study reported here was to ascertain the influence of argument-specific and prosodic information on the availability of alternative argument structures. To achieve this goal, the processing of single vs. double object structures was investigated in two experiments. Materials consisted of sentence fragments beginning with a subject followed by an auxiliary and an object that was either marked for the dative or accusative case. Moreover, sentence fragments differed by means of prosody, being either cut out of a single or double object sentence. In Experiment 1, these sentence fragments were presented for completion by a second object and a ditransitive verb (cross-modal completion), whereas in Experiment 2, subjects had to name a case-congruent monotransitive verb after the offset of the fragment (cross-modal naming). Error rates (Experiment 1) and articulation latencies (Experiment 2) revealed an effect of case but no effect of prosody. We conclude that case has a strong impact on argument structure availability and that prosodic differences may be too subtle to influence performance in these tasks. Consequences for models of incremental sentence comprehension are discussed.


Single Object Argument Structure Sentence Comprehension Experimental Item Double Object 
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.



The work presented here was supported by a grant by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsglemeinschaft). The authors thank Oliver Schweickart for assistance in the preparation and realization of the experiments, Marc Richards for checking the English and three anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier version of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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