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Understanding the role of referential processing in sentence complexity

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dc.contributor.advisor Edward A.F. Gibson. en_US Warren, Tessa Cartwright, 1974- en_US
dc.contributor.other Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. en_US 2005-08-23T18:08:19Z 2005-08-23T18:08:19Z 2001 en_US 2001 en_US
dc.description Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, 2001. en_US
dc.description Includes bibliographical references (p. 123-128). en_US
dc.description.abstract Language comprehension requires syntactic, semantic and pragmatic processing. The work presented in this thesis clarifies the role that the resource demands of syntactic and referential processing play in sentence complexity. Results are interpreted within the framework of the Dependency Locality Theory (Gibson, 1998), which provides a hypothesis about how computational resources constrain the process of sentence comprehension. These new results support and further develop the DLT's discourse-based distance metric for computing locality. The experiments presented here were designed to investigate the referential processing load imposed by relating noun phrase (NP) anaphors to their antecedents and to discover the ramifications of increased referential processing load on behavioral measures of language comprehension. Four questionnaire experiments tested the intuitive complexity of doubly nested sentences containing NPs that were differently referentially accessible. These experiments demonstrated that sentences with structural dependencies crossing less accessible referents are judged more difficult than sentences with structural dependencies crossing more accessible referents. They also showed that referential accessibility manipulations had a negligible effect on intuitive complexity in positions that did not interrupt long distance structural dependencies. en_US
dc.description.abstract (cont.) Five self-paced word-by-word reading experiments elucidated the time course of the complexity ramifications of increased referential processing. Each of these experiments showed that when less accessible referents interrupted long distance structural dependencies, reading times slowed more at the completion of the structural dependency than at the referent itself. From the results of these experiments it is argued that performing referential processing during an incomplete structural dependency makes accessing the representation of the beginning of the dependency more difficult at the dependency's completion. This finding is important to the development of the DLT, expanding it to take both referential and syntactic processing into account when predicting complexity effects. This work also provides new evidence about the relative processing loads incurred by multiple referential processes, new evidence concerning the mechanisms underlying referent accessibility and new evidence about the allocation of resources to different subprocesses of the human language comprehension system. en_US
dc.description.statementofresponsibility by Tessa Cartwright Warren. en_US
dc.format.extent 128 p. en_US
dc.format.extent 12137435 bytes
dc.format.extent 12137195 bytes
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology en_US
dc.rights M.I.T. theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission. See provided URL for inquiries about permission. en_US
dc.subject Brain and Cognitive Sciences. en_US
dc.title Understanding the role of referential processing in sentence complexity en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US Ph.D. en_US
dc.contributor.department Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. en_US
dc.identifier.oclc 50059548 en_US

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