[PS-2.11] Argument-adjunct asymmetry and antecedent retrieval

Hall, K. & Yoshida, M.

Northwestern University

Ellipsis processing involves the identification and retrieval of the antecedent of the ellipsis site (AE). The potential AE is ambiguous when the first conjunct involves a subordinate clause, e.g. in "[John hates that [Mary loves someone]], but I don't know who", either the whole clause ("John hates that...") or just the embedded clause ("Mary loves someone") is a potential antecedent. This study investigates how the parser selects the AE.
An eye-tracking experiment reveals that both type of wh-phrase (WH) and type of verb influence AE selection. The experiment manipulated Wh-Type (What vs. Why) and AE structure (Bi-clausal vs. Mono-clausal). Matrix verbs were always ?emotive-factive?, e.g. hate. Regression Path Duration of the spillover region revealed a significant interaction of WHxAE (t=2.99, p<.005): within the What-conditions, Bi-clausal was slower than Mono-clausal (t=-3.4, p<.001); within the Why-conditions there was no significant difference (t=.46, p=.64). The results suggest that within Why-conditions, the embedded clause is always selected as the AE. We attribute this asymmetry to the verb: the clausal complement of hate type verbs is an island for why-movement, therefore the parser evades an island violation by retrieving the embedded clause as the AE.