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Structure Modulates Similarity-Based Interference in Sluicing: An Eye Tracking study

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In cue-based content-addressable approaches to memory, a target and its competitors are retrieved in parallel from memory via a fast, associative cue-matching procedure under a severely limited focus of attention. Such a parallel matching procedure could in principle ignore the serial order or hierarchical structure characteristic of linguistic relations. I present an eye tracking while reading experiment that investigates whether the sentential position of a potential antecedent modulates the strength of similarity-based interference, a well-studied effect in which increased similarity in features between a target and its competitors results in slower and less accurate retrieval overall. The manipulation trades on an independently established Locality bias in sluiced structures to associate a wh-remnant (which ones) in clausal ellipsis with the most local correlate (some wines), as in The tourists enjoyed some wines, but I don't know which ones. The findings generally support cue-based parsing models of sentence processing that are subject to similarity-based interference in retrieval, and provide additional support to the growing body of evidence that retrieval is sensitive to both the structural position of a target antecedent and its competitors, and the specificity or diagnosticity of retrieval cues.

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