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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Expectations and Noisy-Channel Processing of Relative Clauses in Arabic


Some sentences are hard to read, and we don’t fully understand why. Memory-based and expectation-based constraints both attempt to explain sentence processing difficulties, and decades of sentence processing literature have found evidence in support of both theories. We further investigate theories of sentence processing by exploring subject- and object-extracted relative clause processing in Standard Arabic. We conducted a self-paced reading task and found that SRCs are easier to process than ORCs in Arabic, in line with expectation-based theories. A follow-up analysis of comprehension question answers revealed that when suggested with the possibility of a noisy interpretation, readers preferentially accept an SRC interpretation over an ORC interpretation. Our future research will explore these findings and test the threshold for acceptance of noisy interpretations.

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