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A multi-methodological investigation of the processing and interpretation of coordinate sentences involving verb phrase anaphors


The studies in this dissertation investigated the processing and interpretation of coordinate sentences involving verb phrase (VP) anaphors by obtaining converging evidence from off-line measures sensitive to conscious preference and on-line measures sensitive to real-time processing. The studies in Chapters 2, 3, and 4 investigated the effects of anaphoric form by comparing sentences involving a null VP-anaphoric phrase (e.g. did too) with those involving an overt VP-anaphoric phrase (e.g. did it too). The results indicated that participants were highly accurate in comprehending both forms and interpret both forms similarly; nonetheless, anaphoric form did affect processing, suggesting a number of conclusions. First, in contexts where multiple anaphoric forms are grammatical and there is a single highly- accessible antecedent, comprehenders expected the least informative anaphoric form possible, as reflected in higher naturalness ratings for the null VP-anaphoric condition. Second, violations of this expectation elicited additional processing at the anaphor, as reflected in increased initial processing for the overt VP-anaphoric condition. Finally, variation in when the anaphoric relationship can be detected resulted in variation in processing, as reflected in a reversal pattern whereby the null VP-anaphoric condition was later associated with increased processing. Inspired by the natural linking between anaphora and parallelism, the study in Chapter 5 then investigated the processes underlying parallelism effects in coordinate sentences involving VP anaphors. This study used a cross-modal priming methodology to evaluate the activation of a verb from the first conjunct throughout the two conjuncts. The results indicated that activation related to the initial presentation of the verb decayed relatively quickly. Then, reactivation occurred immediately following a coordinating conjunction (i.e. and) and was sustained throughout the second conjunct. Since this reactivation renders the first conjunct highly- accessible, the results of this study suggested that effects related to parallelism and anaphoric form may be generated by similar underlying processes. By way of conclusion, the findings presented in this dissertation were interpreted in the context of a new model of the processing of coordinate sentences involving VP anaphors that highlights the interplay of prior experience and the immediate context in generating expectations that affect processing and interpretation

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