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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Glossa Psycholinguistics

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Glossa Psycholinguistics  publishes contributions to the field of psycholinguistics in the broad sense. Articles in Glossa Psycholinguistics combine empirical and theoretical perspectives to illuminate our understanding of the nature of language. Submissions from all fields and theoretical perspectives on any psycholinguistic topic are appropriate, as are submissions focusing on any level of linguistic analysis (sounds, words, sentences, etc.) or population (adults, children, non-native speakers, etc.). Methods and approaches include experimentation, computational modeling, corpus analyses, cognitive neuroscience and others. Contributions should be of interest to psycholinguists and other scholars interested in language.

Volume 1, Issue 1, 2022

Regular Articles

The that-trace effect and island boundary-gap effect are the same: Demonstrating equivalence with null hypothesis significance testing and psychometrics

This paper demonstrates a novel approach in experimental syntax, leveraging psychometric methods to resolve a decades-old puzzle.  Specifically, gaps in subject position are more acceptable than gaps in object position in non-islands, while the reverse is true in islands (the Island Boundary-Gap Effect).  Attempts at explaining this asymmetry generally attribute it to a violation of the same constraint that renders gaps unacceptable after the overt complementizer `that' (the That-Trace Effect).  However, the two effects involve distinct syntactic structures, and there is no a priori reason to believe they are the same beyond the elegance of a unified account.  One limitation has been the difficulty of testing for equivalence in the Null Hypothesis Significance Testing framework: when two constructs behave similarly, it generally constitutes an uninterpretable null result. Experiments 1 and 2 use standard experimental methods to circumvent this problem, but ultimately provide evidence that is at best just consistent with equivalence.  Experiment 3 demonstrates a novel approach which shows that individual differences in the That-Trace Effect correlate with individual differences in the Island Boundary-Gap Effect, after removing correlated variance from carefully-chosen controls.  This psychometric approach provides positive evidence that the two effects do indeed derive from the same underlying phenomenon.

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Is reanalysis selective when regressions are consciously controlled?

The selective reanalysis hypothesis of Frazier and Rayner (1982) states that when faced with the need to reanalyze a syntactic ambiguity, readers direct their eyes towards the region in the sentence inducing the ambiguity (e.g., Since Jay always jogs a mile seems like a short distance to him). Given the mixed evidence for this proposal in the literature, we investigated the possibility that selective reanalysis is tied to conscious awareness of the garden-path effect. To this end, we adapted the well-known self-paced reading paradigm to allow for regressive as well as progressive key presses. Assuming that regressions in such a paradigm are consciously controlled, we found no evidence for selective reanalysis, but rather for occasional extensive, heterogeneous rereading of garden-path sentences. We discuss the implications of our findings for the selective reanalysis hypothesis, the role of awareness in sentence processing, as well as the usefulness of the bidirectional self-paced reading method for sentence processing research.

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Lexicalization in the developing parser

We use children's noun learning as a probe into the nature of their syntactic prediction mechanism and the statistical knowledge on which that prediction mechanism is based. We focus on verb-based predictions, considering two possibilities: children's syntactic predictions might rely on distributional knowledge about specific verbs–i.e. they might be lexicalized–or they might rely on distributional knowledge that is general to all verbs. In an intermodal preferential looking experiment, we establish that verb-based predictions are lexicalized: children encode the syntactic distributions of specific verbs and use those distributions to make predictions, but they do not assume that these can be assumed of verbs in general.

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The processing of ambiguous pronominal reference is sensitive to depth of processing

Previous studies on the processing of ambiguous pronominal reference have led to contradictory results: some suggested that ambiguity may hinder processing (Stewart, Holler, & Kidd, 2007), while others showed an ambiguity advantage (Grant, Sloggett, & Dillon, 2020) similar to what has been reported for structural ambiguities. This study provides a conceptual replication of Stewart et al. (2007, Experiment 1), to examine whether the discrepancy in earlier results is caused by the processing depth that participants engage in (cf. Swets, Desmet, Clifton, & Ferreira, 2008). We present the results from a word-by-word self-paced reading experiment with Dutch sentences that contained a personal pronoun in an embedded clause that was either ambiguous or disambiguated through gender features. Depth of processing of the embedded clause was manipulated through offline comprehension questions. The results showed that the difference in reading times for ambiguous versus unambiguous sentences depends on the processing depth: a significant ambiguity penalty was found under deep processing but not under shallow processing. No significant ambiguity advantage was found, regardless of processing depth. This replicates the results in Stewart et al. (2007) using a different methodology and a larger sample size for appropriate statistical power. These findings provide further evidence that ambiguous pronominal reference resolution is a flexible process, such that the way in which ambiguous sentences are processed depends on the depth of processing of the relevant information. Theoretical and methodological implications of these findings are discussed.

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Brief Research Article

Does nonbinary they inherit the binary pronoun production system?

The English pronoun system is undergoing a change in progress as singular they is used more frequently to refer to specific individuals, especially those who identify as nonbinary. How does this change affect the language production system? Research has shown that the production of he/she pronouns is supported by salient discourse status and inhibited in contexts where the pronoun would be ambiguous. In an analysis of naturally-occurring written texts, we test whether they production patterns with he/she production, controlling for discourse context. Results show that the overall rate of pronoun use is lower for references to nonbinary individuals than for references to binary individuals. This difference is not explained by the potential ambiguity of a referent in context. We speculate that relative unfamiliarity with nonbinary they and nonbinary gender may inhibit the activation of they during production, or may lead writers to avoid using a form that may not be familiar to their addressees.

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