Do you what I say? People reconstruct the syntax of anomalous utterances

Iva Ivanova, Holly P. Branigan, Janet F. McLean, Albert Costa, Martin J. Pickering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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We frequently experience and successfully process anomalous utterances. Here we examine whether people do this by ‘correcting’ syntactic anomalies to yield well-formed representations. In two structural priming experiments, participants’ syntactic choices in picture description were influenced as strongly by previously comprehended anomalous (missing-verb) prime sentences as by well-formed prime sentences. Our results suggest that comprehenders can reconstruct the constituent structure of anomalous utterances – even when such utterances lack a major structural component such as the verb. These results also imply that structural alignment in dialogue is unaffected if one interlocutor produces anomalous utterances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-189
Number of pages15
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number2
Early online date28 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Sentence processing
  • Structural priming
  • Reconstruction
  • Anomalous sentences
  • Missing verbs
  • Language comprehension


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