[PS-2.26] Ellipsis with garden-path antecedents in French

Paape, D. 1 , Hemforth, B. 2 & Vasishth, S. 1

1 University of Potsdam
2 Université Paris Diderot

In a self-paced reading study on German sluicing, Paape (2015) found that antecedents that had been reanalyzed (i.e., garden-path antecedents) led to reduced reading times at the ellipsis site. Adopting the parsing framework of Lewis & Vasishth (2005), Paape suggests that ellipsis antecedents are stored in working memory as chunks. Reanalysis increases a chunk's activation level, making it easier to retrieve.
We attempted to replicate Paape's (2015) finding using eye-tracking. The experiment used French sentences in a 2×2 design with the factors antecedent ambiguity (yes/no) and ellipsis (yes/no). If reactivation takes place, ellipsis should be less difficult to process in the ambiguous condition, where the antecedent has been reanalyzed.
At the sluicing site, antecedent ambiguity led to higher total reading times and marginally higher regression path durations only for ellipsis sentences, contrary to what reactivation would predict. An analysis of fixations made after the ellipsis site had been fixated also revealed that subjects re-read the antecedent more often in the ambiguous conditions.
We found no evidence of a reactivation advantage due to reanalysis. Instead, our results suggest that subjects did not always resolve the ambiguity in the initial clause - a type of good-enough processing (e.g. Ferreira & Patson, 2007).