Priming prepositional-phrase attachment during comprehension

Holly P. Branigan, Martin J. Pickering, Janet F. McLean

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    139 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Strong evidence suggests that prior syntactic context affects language production (e.g., J. K. Bock, 1986). The authors report 4 experiments that used an expression-picture matching task to investigate whether it also affects ambiguity resolution in comprehension. All experiments examined the interpretation of prepositional phrases that were ambiguous between high and low attachment. After reading a prime expression with a high-attached interpretation, participants tended to interpret an ambiguous prepositional phrase in a target expression as highly attached if it contained the same verb as the prime (Experiment 1), but not if it contained a different verb (Experiment 2). They also tended to adopt the high-attached interpretation after producing a prime with the high-attached interpretation that included the same verb (Experiment 3). Finally, they were faster to adopt a high-attached interpretation after reading an expression containing the same verb that was disambiguated to the high-attached versus the low-attached interpretation (Experiment 4).
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)468-481
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
    Volume31
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - May 2005

    Keywords

    • Syntax
    • Parsing
    • Syntactic priming
    • Ambiguity resolution
    • Alignment

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