PATIENT+AGENT On-line processing of passive sentences: an eye

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ACTIVE. Der Opa hat am Abend die Oma ganz kurz gekitzelt. The grandpa has shortly ... 2) Which of the morphosyntactic cues to active and passive voice.

On-line processing of passive sentences: an eye-tracking study Valentina Cristante, Sarah Schimke [email protected]



Stromswold et al. 2002: L1 English children and L1 adults process sentences differently 1) L1a make use of morphological cues and decide that a sentence is passive on-line, e.g. at the past participle. 2) L1c do not seem to make use of these cues and process passive sentences off-line, i.e. after the end of the sentence. Both groups do not adopt the “First NP as Agent Strategy”.

Results Children:

Knoeferle et al. 2005: L1 German adults make use of the morphosyntactic cues and in contrast to Stromswold L1 adults adopt the “First NP as Agent” Strategy.

Research Questions

Results L1 Adults:

Before Onset 1 = „ Der Opa“


1) Do L1 and L2 children understand passive sentences correctly? 2) Which of the morphosyntactic cues to active and passive voice do L1 and L2 children use? 3) Do children process sentences as they unfold (on-line processing) or do they delay processing and begin to process sentences once the sentences are over (off-line processing)?

From Onset 1 = „wurde/hat“

Linguistic Stimuli ACTIVE MALE PASSIVE


Der Opa hat am Abend die Oma ganz kurz gekitzelt The grandpa has shortly tickled the grandma in the evening Der Opa wurde am Abend von der Oma ganz kurz gekitzelt The grandpa was shortly ticked by the grandma in the evening Die Oma hat am Abend den Opa ganz kurz gekitzelt The grandma has shortly tickled the grandpa in the evening Die Oma wurde am Abend von dem Opa ganz kurz gekitzelt(P) The grandma was shortly tickled by the grandpa in the evening






From Onset 2a = „von der… / die…“

Experimental Details  25 children with German as L1/ 24 children with Turkish as L1 and German as L2 (mean age: 10,1)/ 29 adults with German as L1  16 experimental items (8 active-8 passive), 4 conditions (2 experimental and 2 “counter-balancing”, 12 NP pairs introduction + 16 fillers  Cross-spliced spoken stimuli/ cues onset measured from the auditory stimuli




From Onset 2b = „von der… / die…“

 Eyelink I  Sentence Picture Matching Test  Loglinear analyses : „Image“ (correct-incorrect) und „Condition“ (active-passive) as fixed factors – separate analysis of the 3 groups >



Summary & Conclusion Participants´ Proficiency

Accuracy Results

(German C-Test)


 L1 and L2 children process passive in a similar way (L2 are marginally slower):  ONLINE Processing: all groups react to the morphosyntactic cues when they encounter them  1st NP strategy: L1c=L2c=L1adults but L2c are slower to L1c and L1adults faster than the L1 and L2 children  We conclude that the processing of passive sentences required extended time in all groups, probably because speakers needed to revise an initial expectation of an active sentence after the onset of wurde. Furthermore, although L2 children were marginally slower, L1 and L2 children processed passive sentences similarly, interpreting them in real-time and reacting to all passive morphosyntactic cues to assign thematic roles.

Acknowledgements: we thank schools and take care-centers in Osnabrück and the project meeting at the University for the fruitful exchange of ideas.

Knoeferle, P., Crocker, M. W., Scheepers, C., and Pickering, M. J. (2005). The influence of the immediate visual context on incremental thematic roleassignment: evidence from eye-movements in depicted events. Cognition, 95:95–127. Stromswold et al. (2002). Tracking the acquisition and processing ofEnglish passive: Using acoustic cues to disambiguate actives and passives. Paper presented at the CUNY Conference on Sentence Processing. New York.

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