[PS-2.80] The role of conceptual structure is determining the need for non-linear syntactic planning in sentence production

Roeser, J. , Torrance, M. & Baguley, T.

Nottingham Trent University

In the production of short sentences syntactic planning typically unfolds linearly, and typically is not complete at initiation of output (e.g., Smith and Wheeldon, 1999). Lee et al. (2013) found longer onset latencies for utterances of the form 'NP PP RC' where the RC modifies the NP. They explain this on the grounds that these structures necessitate non-linear syntactic planning. Conversely, when planning can be linear, production onset can start before syntactic planning is complete. However whether or not syntactic processing is permitted to unfold incrementally must necessarily be determined by a pre-syntactic operation. We therefore examined whether, independently of syntactic structure, conceptual structure determines whether or not planning proceeds incrementally. In two image-description experiments we manipulated the semantic scope of the determiner in the elicited sentences. In structures of the type 'DET N1 N2...' DET scoped either over just N1 (narrow) or over both N1 and N2 (wide). Evidence from eye movements on the stimulus array and from output-onset latencies indicated a greater tendency to plan N2 prior to output in the wide scope condition. This is evidence that conceptual structure can determine the attention dedicated to linearly later items even when syntactic structure is held constant.