[PS-3.53] Proactive number attraction: The case of Basque sentence production

Ristic, B. 1 , Mancini, S. 1 & Molinaro, N. 1, 2

1 BCBL - Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language
2 Ikerbasque, Basque Foundation for Science

Research on sentence production provides rather inconclusive results regarding number attraction coming from attractors which are not intervening between the subject and the verb. In this study, we make use of Basque, where the genitive modifiers precede the head nouns, to see if the number on the genitive modifier (the attractor) can proactively influence number agreement between the following head noun and the verb. The participants were asked to read the preambles and complete the sentences as they wish. The preambles contained a genitive modifier (singular or plural), and a head noun ending in -ak, which is in Basque ambiguous between ergative singular and absolutive plural (e.g. erasotzailearen[GEN.SG]/ erasotzaileen[GEN.PL] biktimak[ERG.SG/ABS.PL], ?the victim(s) of the attacker/attackers?). We hypothesized that the attractor number would influence the choice of the singular/plural verb by affecting the disambiguation of the subject noun towards ergative singular or absolutive plural. The analysis confirmed our hypothesis: ergative singular constructions were used more after singular attractors, and absolutive plural constructions were used more after plural attractors (z value= 3.45; p<.01). Therefore, our results suggest that the subject-verb agreement processes during sentence production can be affected by a non-intervening attractor.