HPSG 2007: Workshop on Constructions and Grammatical Theory Stanford University July 21, 2007 The role of default constructions in the processing of mismatch: the case of possessive free relatives Elaine J. Francis Purdue University firstname.lastname@example.org 1 Why is canonical form simpler for processing? Fewer dependencies involving gaps/traces (e.g., Lexical biases of verbs (Gahl et al 2003, Menn 2000, Canonical sentence templates used for initial interpretation of clauses (Ferreira 2003, Townsend & trace-deletion hypothesis in aphasic comprehension, Grodzinsky 1995) Menn et al 2003) Verbs like kick, chase, break are biased toward an active interpretation. Verbs like elect, injure are biased toward a passive interpretation. Bever 2001; similar ideas in Piñango 2000, Jackendoff 2007) 2 Canonical templates and “good-enough” processing Canonical sentence template: Linear order: Semantic role: NP Agent The dogs V Action destroyed NP Patient the garden. Townsend and Bever (2001) interpret numerous studies showing slower processing for non-canonical clauses in terms of violation of simple templates such as this one. Ferreira (2003) shows that sentences which violate the template (passives, object clefts) are misunderstood significantly more often than sentences that conform to the template (actives, subject clefts), despite being unambiguous sentences with no “garden path” structures and no subordinate clauses. These authors hypothesize that listeners/readers use simple templates for a rough and ready interpretation of sentences before full syntactic and semantic processing is complete. Incorrect interpretations may linger. 3 Canonical templates as linear order default constructions Psycholinguistic evidence from studies such as Ferreira (2003) supports the existence of canonical templates in grammar. Although Townsend & Bever (2001) adopt a derivational approach to syntax, putting canonical templates into a special level of pseudo-syntax, the idea actually fits more easily into a parallel-architecture, constructionist view of grammar. Canonical templates can be understood as default constructions that specify basic mappings between linear order (not hierarchical structure) of constituents and semantic roles. Specific constructions such as passive contain the relevant information to override the defaults, but this information is not always accessed in time to ensure a correct interpretation. 4 Motivation for current study Linear order default constructions appear to be important for comprehension of clauses. Do similar defaults play a role in noun phrase comprehension? What consequences does non-canonical ordering of the head noun have for sentence comprehension? 5 Free Relatives in English Whoever said that is a fool. whoever = ‘the person who’ or ‘anyone who’ Whoever’s idea that was is a fool. whoever’s = ‘the person whose’ or ‘anyone whose’ 6 Possessive free relatives: some examples “There were rose petals scattered across the floor and some had writing on them. One said, ‘I'll love you forever’, and another said, ‘Be mine till the end of time.’ How sweet, whoever's boyfriend did this is a lucky girl.” “You're willing to put up with all the bull****, mental abuse, pain just to ensure that whoever's children you are going to bear is strong, so your children are strong. It's worth all that pain, isn't it?” Story on Quizilla.com, 2-20-2007 Comment on Übersite.com, 12-04-2004 “…as far as the kids on stage behind Roger, I agree with Basje on this one too - that's pretty unprofessional...I am pretty sure whoever's kids those were could afford a nanny or sitter for that night.” Comment on Queenzone.com, 3-31-2005 7 “I bet whoever's car that is is having a worse day than you.” Comment on Stereokiller.com, 4-16-2007 8 Canonical templates for NP Canonical templates for NP order determiner or possessor before the head noun (bearer of referential index): Linear Order: Det Semantic Role: Specifier The Linear Order: Possessor Semantic Role: Specifier John’s N Head dogs S Modifier that got loose are in trouble. N Head dogs S Modifier that got loose are in trouble. 9 Possessive free relatives Ordinary possessive relative clauses are syntactically and semantically complex, but still conform to the canonical template for NP: Linear Order: Semantic Role: Det Specifier The N Head guy S Modifier whose dogs got loose is in trouble. Possessive free relatives look similar, but violate default ordering. Interpretation of referential index for NP depends on possessive pronoun whoever’s: Linear Order: Expected Semantic Role: Actual Semantic Role: Possessor Specifier Head Whoever’s N S Head Modifier Modifier dogs got loose is in trouble. 10 Experiment 1: Verb Decision Task Prediction: Possessive free relatives should be more frequently misunderstood and more slowly processed than similar phrases that conform to the ordering defaults for NP. Visual presentation of sentences in which main verb is missing: Whoever’s dogs got loose __ in trouble. Participants must press a button choosing “is” or “are” to complete the sentence. Number specification on the relevant nouns is counterbalanced. Accurate response requires identification of the head noun in the subject of the matrix clause. 11 Design and Stimuli 2x2 repeated measures design Possessive vs. non-possessive Free vs. normal 4 relative clause types (10 sets) 1. 2. 3. 4. The guy whose dogs got loose is in trouble. Whoever’s dogs got loose is in trouble. The dogs that got loose are in trouble. Whichever dogs got loose are in trouble. (normal possessive) (free possessive) (normal non-possess) (free non-possessive) 5 balanced blocks of 40 sentences each (20 test sentences, 20 fillers in each block) Random ordering of sentences within each block, random ordering of blocks. 12 Participants 42 Purdue University students Ages 18-51 (average age 23) Native speakers of American English 16 male, 26 female Participants were compensated with a choice of either $3 or extra credit from certain instructors, for a 15-20 minute session. 13 Percent Correct for Verb Decision Task 100% Percent Correct 95% 90% 85% 80% 75% 70% 65% 60% normal possessive free possessive normal non-possess. free non-possess. Relative Clause Type Main effects: Interaction: Possessive: F(1, 41) = 33.27, p < 0.01 Free: F(1, 41) = 60.29, p < 0.01 Possessive x Free: F(1,41)=26.40, p < 0.01 14 Response Time (ms) Response Time for Verb Decision Task 4400 4200 4000 3800 3600 3400 3200 3000 2800 2600 2400 2200 2000 normal possessive free possessive normal non-possess. free non-possess. Relative Clause Type Main effects: Possessive: F(1, 41) = 105.83, p < 0.01 Free: F(1, 41) = 44.95, p < 0.01 Interaction: Possessive x Free: F(1, 41) = 0.01, p = 0.91 (not significant) 15 Experiment 1 summary Participants were least accurate and had the slowest response times with possessive free relatives. Results for accuracy appear to confirm initial hypothesis that non-canonical structure contributes to more frequent miscomprehension. Results for response time indicate that possessives are processed more slowly than nonpossessives, and that free relatives are processed more slowly than normal relatives. However free relatives are slower than normal relatives to about the same degree, regardless of whether they are possessive or not. 16 Experiment 2: True-False Decision Task New task to avoid any extraneous factors related to English subject-verb agreement. Visual presentation of sentences (with singular number on all nouns) followed by either a true or false statement: Sentence: Whoever’s dog got loose is in trouble. Statement: Some dog is in trouble. (True or False?) Participants must press a button choosing “true” or “false” to indicate the truth of the statement in relation to the original sentence. Accurate response requires identification of the head noun in the subject of the matrix clause. 17 Design and Stimuli 2x2 repeated measures design 4 relative clause types (10 sets) 1. 2. 3. 4. Possessive vs. non-possessive Free vs. non-free The guy whose dog got loose is in trouble. Whoever’s dog got loose is in trouble. The dog that got loose is in trouble. Whichever dog got loose is in trouble. (normal possessive) (free possessive) (normal non-possessive) (free non-possessive) 4 balanced blocks of 30 sentences each (10 test sentences, 20 fillers in each block) Random ordering of sentences within each block, random ordering of blocks. 18 Participants 21 Purdue University students Ages 18-23 (average age 20) Native speakers of American English 5 male, 20 female Participants were compensated with a choice of either $6 or extra credit from certain instructors, for a 35-40 minute session. 19 Percent Correct Percent Correct for True-False Task 100% 95% 90% 85% 80% 75% 70% 65% 60% normal possessive free possessive normal non-poss. free non-poss. Relative Clause Type Main effects: Possessive: F(1, 20) = 53.10, p < 0.01 Free: F(1, 20) = 21.85, p < 0.01 Interaction: Possessive x Free: F(1,20) = 53.57, p < 0.01 20 Response Time (ms) Response Time for True-False Task 2500 2400 2300 2200 2100 2000 1900 1800 1700 1600 1500 normal possessive free possessive normal non-poss. free non-poss. Relative Clause Type Main effects: Possessive: F(1, 20) = 14.93, p < 0.01 Free: F(1, 20) = 0.74, p = 0.39 (not significant) Interaction: Possessive x Free: F(1,20) = 0.55, p = 0.47 (not significant) 21 Experiment 2 summary Participants were least accurate with possessive free relatives. Results for accuracy lend additional support for the hypothesis that non-canonical structure contributes to more frequent miscomprehension. Results for response time indicate that possessive relatives are processed more slowly than non-possessive relatives. Although possessive free relatives were again the slowest overall, the difference between free relatives and normal relatives was not significant. 22 Conclusions and Implications Two experiments on possessive free relative clauses suggest that a simple default construction for NP may play a role in comprehension of both canonical and noncanonical NPs. Violation of the default appears to affect basic understanding of NP meaning, as shown in accuracy results. The use of default constructions in processing may help constrain the occurrence of non-canonical construction types by making certain kinds of linear order mismatches especially costly for language users. Thus, we expect to find explicit linguistic cues in constructions that violate the default ordering. One reason possessive free relatives are harder than, for example, passives, might be that whoever’s is the only overt cue to the ordering mismatch. 23 Defaults as constructional biases This analysis is compatible with usage-based models of grammar and processing. Default constructions can be understood as constructional biases of clauses or phrases, akin to lexical biases of verbs. Constructional biases are based on frequency of certain linear order-semantic role mappings. Constructional biases based on linear order defaults are distinct from the frequencies of particular lexical items or particular constructions. E.g., infrequent constructions can still conform to defaults. Infrequent constructions that conform to the relevant linear order default are predicted to be easier to understand than equally infrequent constructions that violate the default, all else being equal. Similarly, other kinds of mismatches that affect syntactic category or hierarchical structure in syntax (but not linear order) are predicted to incur fewer comprehension errors. 24 Thanks to Research assistant: Yanhong Zhang Funding: Purdue University Experiment participants at Purdue Abstract reviewers and other colleagues who provided comments 25 Selected References Ferreira, Fernanda. 2002. Good-enough representations in language comprehension. Current Directions in Psychological Science 11: 11-15. Ferreira, Fernanda. 2003. The misinterpretation of noncanonical sentences. Cognitive Psychology 47: 164-203. Gahl, Susanne, Lise Menn, Gail Ramsberger, Daniel S. Jurafsky, Elizabeth Elder, Molly Rewega, L. Holland Audrey. 2003. Syntactic frame and verb bias in aphasia: Plausibility judgments of undergoer-subject sentences. Brain and Cognition 53: 223-228. Goldberg, Adele E. and Giulia M. L. Bencini . 2005. Support from language processing for a constructional approach to grammar. 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