SYNTACTIC PROCESSING OF GARDEN PATH SENTENCES: DIFFERENCES DEPENDING ON SUBORDINATE CLAUSE TYPE 1
NOELIA A. STETIE & GABRIELA M. ZUNINO [email protected]
& [email protected]
facultad de filosofía y letras, universidad de buenos aires 2
3.5. Results and discussion
Reading times (ms) General objective: to study the psycholinguistic processing of sentences with structural ambiguity that generates a garden path effect. Specific objective: to analyse and discuss the results obtained in a psycholinguistic test that measures the reading times on adverbial clauses of time and of place.
Time clauses Place clauses
Hypothesis: a) the garden path sentences have longer reading times in the whole sentence and in the verb that causes the garden path effect; b) adverbial clauses of place generate the same garden path effect found in adverbial clauses of time.
The verbs where the garden path effect occurs had longer reading times than the same verbs in the unambiguous version of the sentence in both clauses of time and place.
Psycholinguistics is a discipline that investigates the mental processes involved in producing and understanding language. To predict and explain which sentences will be particularly difficult to process, language scientists appeal to the concept of syntactic parsing which is a mental process or set of processes that take sequences of words and organise them into hierarchical structures.
The reading times in the sentences with adverbial clauses of time were as expected: participants had longer reading times in the ambiguous version of the sentence. However, this pattern was not found in the sentences with adverbial clauses of place. The results were the opposite of what was expected: subjects had shorter reading times when the sentence was ambiguous.
Twenty-one subjects (13 females and 8 males; 20 to 38 years old, mean=25,9, SD=4,4) participated in this study. All participants were native speakers of (River Plate) Spanish and had 12 to 18 years of formal education (mean=15,8; SD=2,3).
CONDITION Place-ambiguous Place-unambiguous Time-ambiguous Time-unambiguous
4000 3853,51 3712,33 3645,78 3728,12 CONDITION
Place-ambiguous Place-unambiguous Time-ambiguous Time-unambiguous
There was not a significant difference between the sentences in the different conditions (TA-TUA: p=0,72; PA-PUA: p=0,93; TA-PA: p=0,40).
conclusions 1) Reading times were longer in the garden path sentences with adverbial clauses of time than in the unambiguous sentences. 2) The verbs where the garden path effect occurs had longer reading times than the rest of the verbs in both adverbial clauses of time and of place.
3.3. Items Adverbial clauses of time Ambiguous sentence: While the grandfather swept the sidewalk filled with leaves.
3) The garden path sentences with adverbial clauses of place did not have longer reading times as expected. However, the unambiguous sentences had the same reading times with adverbial clauses of time and of place. This seems to reject the possibility that a non-syntactic variable is interfering and reinforces the fact that garden path sentences with adverbial clauses of place are not parsed as the ones with adverbial clauses of time.
Unambiguous sentence: The sidewalk filled with leaves while the grandfather swept.
Adverbial clauses of place
The task was programmed and taken in PsychoPy 2. Reading times of all phrases and of the whole sentences were recorded in every condition. In all cases, the sentences were presented randomly. The administration of the test was individual with the examiner present.
3.4. Experimental procedure
There was not a significant difference between the verbs in the different conditions (TA-TUA: p=0,58; PA-PUA: p=0,69).
Unambiguous sentence: The cake fell on the tablecloth where the man ate.
200 The difference between the ambiguous and the unambiguous sentences is bigger when there is an adverbial clause of time rather than an adverbial clause of place.
Language scientists have learned a lot about the mechanisms that people use to interpret sentences by studying garden path sentences. Garden path sentences contain a sequence of words that can be configured in more than one way, but the sentence as a whole has only one grammatically acceptable structure. This effect has been found in sentences with adverbial clauses of time such as: While the kids read the book stayed on the desk.
Ambiguous sentence: Where the man ate the cake fell on the tablecloth.
Complete Sentence Amb 3853,51 Unamb 3712,33 Amb 3645,78 Unamb 3728,12
Garden Path Verb
All the participants did a self paced reading task that involved reading sentences in two conditions (ambiguous vs. unambiguous) with two types of adverbial clauses (place vs. time) segmented into five phrases and verifying correspondence with a sentence presented as a whole, immediately afterwards.
Garden Path Verb Amb 724,58 Unamb 675,99 Amb 724,36 Unamb 682,84
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