MODELS OF GAP-LOCATION IN THE HUMAN LANGUAGE PROCESSOR
Ph.D. Dissertation, 1983
A review of models of gap-location proposed in the literature shows that
these models do not make specific enough predictions to be evaluated by
experimental evidence; they must be realized as gap-location procedures
within a specific parsing model. Specific parsing models are outlined
and evaluated in terms of existing expeirmental results and of two experiments
performed as part of this research. These experiments replicate and extend
an experiment performed by Crain and Fodor (1983), which demonstrated
that an object noun phrase takes longer to process in a WH-question than
in the corresponding declarative sentence. Using the same self-paced reading
paradigm, Experiment 1 demonstrates that this result also obtains when
embedded WH-clauses and if-clauses are compared. This replication suggests
that WH-constructions of distinct types are classed together by parsing
procedues. Lengthened reading times appear to be characteristic when the
processor expects a gap and an over NP appears. On the other hand, subject
noun phrases are not more difficult to comprehend in a WH-clause than
in an if-clause. This suggests that gap-location procedures differ crucially
between subject and object positions. A grammar-related explanation and
a parsing-related explanation of this subject/object asymmetry are advanced.
The second experiment reported here shows that the processing mechanisms
are sensitive to syntactic context. Noun phrases occurring in a prepositional
phrase complement to a subject noun phrase do not differ in difficulty
between a WH-clause and an if-clause. This result suggests that gap-location
procedures are not used in contexts where they are not appropriate, since
a gap cannot grammatically occur in this position.
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